Influx of migrants dropped off by ICE has churches, faith groups near breaking point


Pastor Raul Salgado with Revolution Church said the congregation is compelled by their faith to help migrants, but he is concerned resources are drying up. (Photo by Delia Johnson/Cronkite News)

By Chloe Jones and Walter Penate

TOLLESON – The number of migrants dropped off at Revolution Church in Tolleson has nearly doubled since last December, Pastor Raul Salgado estimates.

Migrants are being dropped off by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after they have applied for asylum and are waiting for their cases to be heard. They usually stay two or three days while Salgado and church volunteers help them find more permanent housing and a way to get there.

Tolleson is a western suburb of Phoenix, with a population of about 7,000.

At the end of November, Salgado said, a pastor of another church asked whether Revolution Church could host an unexpected busload of migrant families ICE had just dropped off.

“I told him yes. And that was four months ago, and we haven’t stopped since,” Salgado said.

In an email to Cronkite News, an ICE spokesman said 14,500 “family unit members” have been processed and released in Phoenix from Dec. 21 through March 5.

It isn’t clear whether the increase is a result of changes in ICE policies or because of the sheer number of migrants seeking asylum or both.

“The dynamics of operational realities are ever-changing and the agency makes adjustments as required to best serve the mission,” the email said. “ICE wants to mitigate strains placed on resources in the local community as we continue to see high volumes of families crossing the border.”

Ismael Garcia Dominguez, who arrived at Revolution Church last week from Guatemala, said he was happy the congregation opened their doors to him. During his journey to the United States, he said Mexican immigration officials took all his money before allowing him to cross the border.

Revolution Church has yet to turn anyone away, but Salgado isn’t sure how long that will be the case.

“We do it because we want to. We do it by faith, we do it because that’s what we’re called to do,” he said.

During the past four months, Salgado estimates his church alone has hosted 2,500 to 3,500 migrants. The church depends on help and donations from volunteers in the community, but the majority of funding comes out of the church’s own pockets.

“It costs money to help these people,” Salgado said. “The water bill goes up. The electric bill goes up. The expenses have increased.”

This is the case for many Arizona churches that take in migrants. Resources are being stretched and it’s difficult for congregants to support families on top of other costs they already have, such as rent and utilities.

Magdalena Schwartz, president of the East Valley Christian Leaders Alliance, has been helping migrants since 1998, beginning her work with police department and immigrant relations. She calls the current situation a humanitarian crisis.

She said she initially was asked to help by an ICE agent who was concerned about the safety of migrant families being dropped off at bus stations, especially the children.

The next day, members of her church prayed and started receiving families, Schwartz said. She now works with about 15 other churches, but the strain has caused many to cut back on the number of migrants they can help, and some have stopped taking them entirely.

“A church before received 100 people; now they can receive about 50,” Schwartz said. “So where do the other 50 people go?”

She said her group has reached out to many churches to find additional housing for these families, but most either don’t respond or lack the resources. She also noted that when a church can’t take in any migrants, they are dropped off at the local Greyhound station, which is a big challenge for migrants who don’t speak the language or know U.S. laws.

Schwartz is in the process of asking state and local government for assistance. She hopes the government can help them support these migrants while they await their asylum requests to be processed.

Although resources are stretched, she has never turned anyone away.

“We made this compromise with God,” Schwartz said. “It’s about people suffering. It’s about children suffering. It’s not about us.”


  1. Hey Raul, got a hot tip or you. Migrants and ILLEGALS are two different classifications. The liberals don’t want to call them what they are so thus the Migrants, but in all reality they are ILLEGALS. Hope you choke on them. You so richly diserve it. And by the way, don’t lie about Migrants and ILLEGALS any more. You and your church and faith are harbouring ILLEGALS which is against the law of this contry.

  2. These are the churches who make enormous amounts of $$$ from the Feds for transporting and housing aliens all over the world. Not Christian in my opinion.

  3. These are the same churches who encouraged illegals to cross promising them sanctuary here. Well be careful for what you wish for. Now your got them, your stuck with them and yep they are not going anywhere for years to come thanks to you and your misguided beliefs. From day one when you took in your first illegal alien and gave them sanctuary your church leaders should have been booked for obstruction and immigration law violations. Your tax exempt status should have been voided as well.

  4. I suspect these churches also take the position that there is no immigration crisis on our southern border. If Revolution and the other churches cannot afford to host these immigrants, they should not accept them from ICE.

  5. Well you guys know this is FAKE NEWS right? The left and the msm claim there are no illegals flooding the border, thus no need for a fence or solid barricade. Why the left and its crack PR team of the msm know that its just the presidents immagination and that he is nuts because he is trying to do what he thinks and then said needs to be done to protect this country. As in the other article today just look at the reason amazon and others AVOID this area.

  6. I’m a Christian and I know God believes in law and order and all this churches are braking the law by taking this illegals in.
    Yes they can feed them and cloth them so they’re not hungry or cold but then they’re supposed to send them back Jesus never broke the law as cruel and unjust as it was in his days.
    If these pastors and their churches wanted to really show the love of God they can sponsor these people and bring nag them back the lawful way. Sponsor in the real sense you provide for them until they can provide for themselves you don’t burden our social services with them. Do the right thing and you will not have a problem 😢🇺🇸😲🙏😢🙏😖🙏🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  7. Maybe, instead of sending federal aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and other third world nations whose citizens are straining both public and private resources, that money should be used right here in the form of grants to these faith groups — FREE OF STRINGS — to help defray the expenses the nations of origin are creating here. It wouldn’t hurt to send some money to the schools, hospitals, and doctors in these areas, or use it to provide refugee housing, which would go a long way toward ensuring attendance at the hearings these people routinely blow off. They get some housing somewhere, a black market off the grid job, and melt into the population. It wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact of the Democrats use of these vulnerable populations to show up at loosely controlled polls to pad the vote. We simply must secure the border to reduce the flood and then ADJUST THE IMMIGRATION LAWS TO REFLECT CURRENT PROBLEMS!!!

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