Pima Co. Health Director: ‘Low to minimal threat’ posed by undoc - Tucson News Now

Pima Co. Health Director: ‘Low to minimal threat’ posed by undocumented children

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As of last Friday, the holding facility in Nogales had processed more than 4,000 unaccompanied children, most of them from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Those children are screened, immunized and assessed medically in a number of ways, health officials say. It's not until they pass each of those screenings are they're eligible to move on to temporary housing facilities like "College Place" near Oracle and Drachman.

However, there's still a lot of concern about disease, sickness and other health conditions that could potentially pose a threat to our community.

This is something local officials are aware of and monitoring, quite literally, every day.

Of the 4,000-plus children processed in Nogales since early June, officials have identified only two cases of influenza, two cases of chicken pox and a single case of tuberculosis.

We've also learned emergency responders have responded 34 times to the Nogales facility for issues like cramping, fractures, seizures and pregnancy.

While those conditions do not present any public risk, health officials know better than anyone this remains a very fluid situation, which is why we spoke with the Pima County Health Director by phone, as he's currently in Washington, D.C consulting with all the stakeholders, nationally.

"I'm watching this like a hawk. I'm almost in daily contact with the federal agencies and state agencies that are involved," says Dr. Francisco Garcia of the Pima County Health Department.

"This is by every extent of the imagination a humanitarian crisis. There are real health risks. Those risks, however, are to the children who are in custody," Garcia says.

"My full priority is the health and well being of the county. So that's what I have to be focused on at this time. My assessment continues to not be any different. That is, we have a low threat level posed by these children," Garcia says.

As for "College Place," the former student apartments turned shelter in midtown, we've learned approximately 160 unaccompanied children are now living there.

They're housed and supervised under the U.S. Department Health and Human Services.

On average, each child is there about 30 days before he or she is reunited with family or legally processed and returned to their country.

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