At the International Rescue Committee Phoenix Welcome Center, asylum-seekers can take a breath

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Thursday, May 18, 2023 - 12:01pm
Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2023 - 12:02pm

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Title 42 may be over, but the Biden ministration has only replaced it with more strict guidelines on who is eligible to seek asylum here.

Under the new rule — which is already being challenged in court by advocates — asylum-seekers who don’t apply using the CBP One app have to prove they tried to get protection in a country they passed through before getting to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The effect of these new restrictions is yet to be seen on the border, but even under Title 42 the stream of migrants coming to the U.S. and seeking asylum was steady — and tens of thousands of them came right here to Phoenix, to a place called the Welcome Center.

It’s run by the International Rescue Committee in coordination with a slew of community organizations that help out with everything from medical exams to food and clothing to playing with the many babies and kids they host daily.

Beth Strano International Rescue Committee Welcome Center
Lauren Gilger/KJZZ
Beth Strano in her office at the Welcome Center.

Beth Strano is the IRC’s asylum seekers and families engagement manager. She gave The Show a tour of the Welcome Center in the waning days of Title 42, as uncertainty reigned about what would come next and who would be able to make it here going forward.

There were a lot of rules about where we could record here and who we could talk to. They’re very careful about protecting the privacy of migrants who have come here — often from very dangerous circumstances and after surviving often very dangerous journeys to get here.

And, for the first time in their long journeys, Strano said, when they get here, they can take a deep breath.

Migrants are only here for 24-48 hours usually. After that, they’re sent to relatives or friends, sponsors who are willing to take them while their asylum cases play out. Last year, Strano said, more than 50,000 migrants came through the center. And they come from everywhere.

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