FEMA reimburses $700k to AZ churches, nonprofits for assisting migrant families

Wilder Jose, 4, from Guatemala waves at the camera as he eats chicken soup at the Casa de Oración church in northwest Phoenix on Friday, October 19. The boy arrived with his dad and 30 other migrant families at the church after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released them. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

Pima County and 13 state nonprofits and faith organizations were awarded more than $700,000 in federal funds to reimburse part of their work of assisting thousands of migrant fathers, mothers and children who were released by border and immigration officials earlier this year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The federal funds are part of a $4.6 billion emergency border aid bill approved by Congress in June amid a surge of migrant families and minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, and public outrage over the deaths of migrant children and conditions at border detention centers. 

The border aid bill allocated $30 million to FEMA to distribute among communities that experienced the influx of migrant families. According to FEMA, $25 million will be distributed among government entities and groups in the four border states (Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas) and the remaining $5 million will be available for the rest of the states that “demonstrate a significant influx in migrants.”

A FEMA spokesperson said Oct. 10 that roughly $7.8 million of the $30 million has been allocated nationally to government entities and nonprofits that directly serviced migrants with food, shelter and transportation between Jan. 1 and June 30. That means Arizona groups received 9% of the first round of FEMA funds distributed. 

FEMA funds cover a part of expenses from community groups

Several groups contacted by Arizona Mirror said they had been notified of the FEMA award, but had not received the funds. 

The Salvation Army, which operated an overnight shelter in Yuma for about seven months this year, received the largest reimbursement among Arizona organizations: $202,422.

Jeffrey Breazeale with the Salvation Army in Yuma said the organization served about 5,800 people at its migrant shelter. He said the organization spent more than $400,000 to assist migrant families. 

“We are very grateful for the federal government’s help in the reimbursement of the costs we put out-of-pocket,” Breazeale said. “Anything helps. We weren’t looking for hand-outs. We know it was an opportunity that the Salvation Army could help our community and help individuals that were being released.” 

The Salvation Army serviced migrants released from Border Patrol custody, Breazeale said. Most of the families were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, he said. 

In the Phoenix and Tucson areas, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement began releasing thousands of migrant families to churches and community groups in October 2018. Sometimes, when the community groups were overwhelmed, ICE would drop the migrant families off near a sidewalk, prompting urgent calls for meaningful city and state assistance — which never came.  

The migrants, mostly coming from Central America to seek asylum in the U.S., were released to the community groups after processing by border and immigration officials. They spent a few days with the charity groups and volunteers, who assisted them in arranging travel elsewhere in the country where the migrants planned to meet family or friends and begin their immigration cases in court.

According to ICE’s Oct. 14 estimates, 44,400 migrant family members have been released to groups in Arizona since Dec. 21, 2018. 

OrganizationAmount awarded
The Salvation Army$202,422.25
Society of St. Vincent de Paul$111,308.12
Pima County Grants Management & Innovation (GMI)$88,481.59
Monte Vista Baptist Church dba Monte Vista Cross Cultural Church$59,504.01
Iglesia Cristiana El Buen Pastor$54,730.00
Lutheran Social Services of The Southwest$46,027.07
Catholic Community Services, d/b/a; CSS, Nutrition Services of Southern Arizona$45,773.70
International Rescue Committee$44,923.69
Iglesia Cristiana Alfa y Omega$17,340.16
Helping With All My Heart Inc$13,123.50
World Hunger Ecumenical Arizona Task Force, Inc.$11,526.59
One Hundred Angels$8,432.14
Episcopal Diocese of AZ$4,108.31
First Church United Church of Christ$2,209.00


The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity group that ran a center for migrant families in Phoenix for 86 days, was awarded a reimbursement of $111,000, according to FEMA. 

Jessica Berg, chief program officer for St. Vincent de Paul, said the group serviced a total of 5,070 migrant fathers, mothers and children and served a total of 16,539 meals. 

Berg added that the process of applying for the FEMA funds was unusual because the many groups and volunteers assisting the migrants weren’t doing the work with an expectation for reimbursement, so they didn’t have the receipts or documents available when the federal aid became available.    

“We were not able to get reimbursed for all the expenses because we didn’t have all the documents,” Berg said. “We have an accounting department, and staff that can help with these details, so I can imagine this was a bit tricky with the smaller organizations.”

A network of small Hispanic congregations in the Phoenix-area were among the first to partner with ICE and pool resources to welcome, feed, clothe and offer transportation to migrant families in October. The Monte Vista Baptist Church in Phoenix was at the forefront of that effort. 

Monte Vista’s pastor, Angel Campos, estimated his congregation serviced about 1,900 migrants between January and June. He said other churches didn’t have the documents needed to apply for the FEMA funds, even if they did the work.   

“We requested reimbursement for what we could prove was spent. There were pastors who didn’t have receipts,” he said. “This is us recovering an investment that we, as a church, had to make. We did it out of responsibility for our community, we never expected to have a reimbursement.” 

A Phoenix-area group that staffed organizations welcoming migrant families with medical volunteers and supplies, One Hundred Angels, received about $8,400 from FEMA. Between January and June of this year, the medical group saw more than 12,600 migrants and spent about $71,000 in over-the-counter medication, according to Cecila Garcia, founder of One Hundred Angels. 

The World Hunger Ecumenical Arizona Task-Force is a local group that received the applications for FEMA funds and relayed them to a national board. 

“Over 140 organizations, agencies and faith communities in Arizona were interested in the possible reimbursement of expenses incurred; most did not apply,” Tamera Zivic, executive director of WHEAT, said. 

A second application period is planned to distribute the remaining $21.6 million in FEMA funds and “is anticipated to cover eligible costs incurred between January 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019,” according to a FEMA spokesperson.

“This second application period will provide additional time for agencies to engage (…) and to receive additional technical assistance in developing an application,” FEMA said.

The federal agency will also expand the categories of eligible costs for the second application. Information on the new application is expected to be released in January 2020.

“Service agencies that participated in the first application period covering eligible costs expended from January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019 may apply again, but funds cannot duplicate assistance already approved,” FEMA said.


  1. The US Federal Government agency FEMA is violating the US Constitution by giving public monies to churches in violation of the separation of church and state. The churches use the gifts of money to obligate the individuals to become members of the church and teach them untruths of bible scriptures which cause them to believe that they will burn in the grave (hell) where Jesus spent 3 days in hell and described it as sleeping and awaiting a resurrection, teach that unless they contribute to the church they will burn in hell, teach them that they will go to heaven if they support the church, when the bible teaches that those who worship the God and Creator “Jehovah” will be granted everlasting life here on earth in a paradise, and most important they do not teach that Jesus’s Kingdom exist now and will very soon unleash Armageddon upon the earth and only those who worshipped Jehovah will survive and receive the condition that Adam and Eve would have had if they had not disobeyed Jehovah.
    Therefore the churches are leading the public into destruction and the US Constitution demands “in God We Trust” as the truth of the salvation of mankind.

  2. Is that why Jesus said that the MEEK will inherit the earth and reside on it for ever? Also is that why Jesus said that “as it was in the day of Noah the flood came and sept them all away, so it will be in the end of this system of things? Also is that why Jesus said that at the end of the thousand years after Armageddon the resurrection of those in the Memorial Tombs would come out and live on the earth forever?

  3. David, those are passages in our holy book we call the Bible. Are you seeking to entrap us as Jesus was? The problem here is that unless you believe in Jesus you will never understand our love and respect of the one we call our father. Give up go home go get harassed by others who don’t know our peace. We can and do practice religion separate from our lives. It’s not easy but doing otherwise reeks of cultism and we love our children too much to force them to follow our beliefs until they too see the light!

  4. David
    Marcus, you admit that the above is a true rendering of a Jehovah’s instructions in the Bible Scriptures but you seem to indicate that one can
    believe what they wish. Since Jesus is the king of the existing Kingdom which is awaiting the Father Jehovah’s instruction to bring the War of the Great Day of the “God Jehovah” upon the earth, that proves that my comment shows definite belief in Jesus. It appears that you refer to one of the untruths taught by Christendom that the Father and Son are one individual which Jesus made clear with his instruction “call no one your “Father” except the true God Jehovah”. Also Jesus said that Jehovah brought him into existence in the beginning of his ways as the Arc(first)Angel and that at his resurrection he went to sit at the right hand of his “Father”.
    You also said the following ” It’s not easy but doing otherwise reeks of cultism and we love our children too much to force them to follow our beliefs until they too see the light! Does this mean that you do not see the light? Thank you for you comment and I look forward to further discussion concerning the only Bible truths that will guarantee everlasting life on earth after Armageddon.


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