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A warm meal, a hair tie and shoe laces

By: - October 12, 2018 4:04 pm

A migrant boy’s shoes are tied by piece ripped from thermal blanket. When migrants are taken into custody by border officials, they have to remove their shoe laces as a safety precaution. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

Hundreds of migrant families were dropped off by federal immigration officials in the Phoenix-area churches this week.

Ana Sofia, 5, arrived Tuesday night with her gray T-shirt dirty around her neck. Her frizzy blonde hair was tied in a ponytail with a long silver piece of plastic. She and her mother, Patricia, spent several days in government custody after traveling from Honduras.

Asylum-seekers who show up at official port of entries and immigrants caught crossing illegally usually spend time at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol holding areas that aren’t designed to hold people for long periods. There are limits to how long children can stay in these facilities. While there, their belongings are confiscated, including jewelry and shoe laces, and they’re commonly given a silver Mylar blanket for warmth.

Many of the mothers, fathers and children that arrived Tuesday had tied their shoes together with pieces ripped from those thermal blankets. At the church, some began putting the shoe laces back on and others picked new pairs of shoes donated by churchgoers.

A migrant woman puts on her shoe laces back into her sneakers at a Phoenix church where more than 20 migrant families who arrived on Tuesday, October 9. When migrants are taken into custody by border officials, they have to remove their shoe laces as a safety precaution. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

Migrants interviewed by the Arizona Mirror said their only meals at the holding facility were lukewarm soup with uncooked noodles, three times a day. Churchgoers Tuesday welcomed the migrant families with warm plates of fried chicken, black beans, rice and tortillas.

Late Tuesday night, after taking a bath at the church, a yellow hair tie held back Ana Sofia’s ponytail. She wore a clean dress, purple leggings and a new purple sweatshirt.  


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Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.