ONLY ON KOLD: Crossing the line - Tucson News Now

ONLY ON KOLD: Crossing the line

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - We first learned about this story a few weeks ago when a handful of women and children, most of them undocumented immigrants from Central America, were dropped off by U.S. officials at the Tucson Greyhound station.

They were dropped off because they're simply wasn't enough room for them in detention facilities along the border.

Since then, this has exploded into what's arguably the biggest immigration story in the world today.

And Tucson is right in the middle of it.

For the first time last month the Department of Homeland Security allowed television cameras inside the Nogales holding facility.

Even then, the message was very controlled since we couldn't talk to the children or even see their faces to get some idea what they were going through.

That's why we went straight to the source to learn more about what's happening -- and why more than 50,000 undocumented children -- have come to the United States from Central America over the last year.

"I know firsthand because it's also happening in my family."

Saulo Padilla is a legal U.S resident today, but was born in Guatemala and left as a political refugee when he was just ten years old.

 "Some of the people I've talked to on the border say, 'They told me there was a relief program where they were granting Visas to women with children, with parents with children who came to the border and they applied for asylum here' -- so they've been tricked into that," Padilla says.

As his parents worked through legal residency -- first in Mexico, then Canada -- he experienced what many of these kids are going through when he was separated from his own father for five years.

Padilla says, "We were just thrown around for these political issues, economic issues as children. My mom and dad were just trying to figure out what to do with us as well and where it was safer for us."

A situation very similar to what's happening in Central America today.

Not so much politically, but economically and socially.

Poverty and murder rates in Central America are among the highest in the world.

Because of that their people are willing to do just about anything for a chance at a better life.

"My experience, I had to risk my life going through the border because I wanted to continue living as a human being," says Sebastian Quinac.

It's been 30 years since Quinac came to the United States from Guatemala.

"I tried to get political asylum but no one helped me do it, so I had to come here like any other undocumented migrant." he says.

One reason why Quinac relates so closely with what's happening today.

As a volunteer for the Guatemalan Consulate he sees the faces of these children, some of them just two or three months old.

Quinac says, "other kids I’ve seen sick, diarrhea, stomach ache, broken leg."

And he tries to provide solace for them and their mothers once they've been released by homeland security.

"How traumatized are these people after what they've been through over the last few weeks?" Tucson News Now asks Quinac.

 "Very's the fear they have, what they have been through with the border patrol, or coyotes, other things in Mexico and here."

On this day, we caught up with Quinac at the Tucson Greyhound station downtown.

We are the first local television station to get such intimate access to undocumented women and children being dropped off.

This is where Quinac comes two or three times every day to help these people with food and supplies before boarding a bus to a friend or family member living anywhere in the United States.

Considering the papers they receive after processing, he tells them that's not the permit or "permiso" that smugglers had promised them.

It's an order to appear in court for their next immigration hearing.

Quinac says, "I advise them that they have to go to that appointment because otherwise their situation becomes worse."

That is, immediate deportation -- and a very good chance of never becoming a legal resident in the United States.

Good news is -- for the first time ever -- U.S. leaders are visiting Central America to look at the situation there and consider what measures could potentially curb the flow of illegal immigrants to the United States.

"So there's something positive coming out of this. Too bad it has to happen this way that we're risking the lives of children in other to bring attention to that," Saulo Padilla says.

And it's received the ire of political pundits across the nation.

With thousands of people giving themselves up at the ports at the ports of entry, filling our facilities and overwhelming Customs and Border Protection, some would argue more agents or better technology isn't going to fix a thing.

We've heard about our broken immigration system for 50 years.

But until the problem is truly addressed at its source, it's anyone's guess...if or when that will ever change.

"The situation now is not is the border secure? It's how do we deal with the issue from a humanitarian way?" Padilla says, shaking his head.

"And also more than ever, immigration reform and dealing with immigration issues in the United States now -- the broken immigration system is more important than ever," Padilla says.

The number of people we're talking about is absolutely mind-boggling.

All told, about 160 thousand illegal immigrants over the last nine months, nearly 60 thousand, unaccompanied children.

Tucson, of course, isn't alone in handling this.

But we're definitely impacted as much as any city if not more so.

And that impact is going to be felt here for years to come.

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