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Investigation: Pima County OKs shelter for asylum-seekers

TucsonSentinel.com's month-long investigation into Pima County's approval of converting a vacant juvenile detention center into a shelter for migrant families legally seeking asylum:

The controversial proposal had Black Lives Matter activists decrying what they said is "white saviorism" while the Republican county sheriff backed the plan and said members of the GOP who opposed it "say that they're Christians. That's not the Christian faith that I recognize."

Staffers and volunteers for other faith-based groups, including a shelter operated by the United Methodists, spoke against the plan for the county to fund the shelter run by Catholic Community Services, and a pivotal Democratic county supervisor was on-again, off-again in his support until ultimately voting in favor.

Because of TucsonSentinel.com's focused reporting on the project, the county Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to vote on the issue — and added a public comment period when we questioned why one was not on the agenda.

7/22/19: Pima supervisors OK converting juvie center wing to shelter for asylum-seekers

On a 3-2 party line vote, Pima County supervisors approved moving a Catholic-run shelter for released migrants into a vacant wing of the juvenile detention center — but not before hearing dissension over the plan from other groups that work with migrants.

The "cooperative agreement" between the county and Catholic Community Services will see the social service agency operate the shelter for asylum-seekers who are newly released by federal immigration authorities. The county will fund the shelter, to the tune of about $530,000 for the remainder of this year.

What preceded that approval:

7/8/19: Pima County to lease juvenile center for stop-over for asylum-seekers

Asylum seekers freshly released from federal custody may have a new place for respite as Pima County is set to turn over an unused section of the juvenile detention center to Catholic Community Services.

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7/12/19: County stops work after clash over migrant shelter at vacant Pima juvenile center

Plans to turn an unused section of the juvenile detention center into a Catholic Community Services shelter for hundreds of released migrants have prompted debate, with activists calling the move a "non-starter," and supporters assailing "second-guessing that undermines the work."

7/13/19: County migrant shelter 'back on track' after Elias again supports project

Plans to turn an unused section of the Pima juvenile detention center into a shelter for released migrants are back on, 24 hours after heated debate led officials to order a halt to work.

7/15/19: Pima County seeks to redirect $100K/mo in Stonegarden funds to migrant shelter

Pima County is asking that more than a half-million dollars in Operation Stonegarden money be directed toward humanitarian aid for asylum-seekers. County Sheriff Napier said he backs the shelter, "even if it all came out of overtime."

7/16/19: Document: Draft lease for Pima County/CCS migrant shelter

7/16/19: Document: Pima County request to direct Stonegarden funds to migrant shelter

7/16/19: Document: Memo on Pima County grant applications for border aid

7/17/19: Document: Revised draft lease for Pima County/CCS migrant shelter

7/18/19: Pima supervisors to hold special meeting on migrant shelter at juvie center

At a special meeting next Monday, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will review and potentially approve converting a vacant portion of the juvenile detention center into a shelter for asylum-seekers released by the federal government.

The meeting, set for 9 a.m. on July 22, was called Monday morning after a week of controversy saw the project announced, called off, and then put "back on track."

7/19/19 Guest opinion: Miller: Pima migrant shelter would 'ensure community safety,' but plenty of questions remain

"If we don't act, it creates an unsafe situation for both residents and the individuals who have been released in our community," said Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller. But the Republican has questions about expenses, and funding.

7/19/19: Pima County provides more details on planned shelter for asylum-seekers

Plans to transform an unused section of the Juvenile Detention Center into a transitional shelter for newly released asylum-seekers are a good investment even if the flow of migrants slows down, said Pima County's Chuck Huckelberry. He also responded to questions posed by Supervisor Miller.

7/19/19: Document: Huckelberry memo on migrant shelter details

7/19/19: Document: Huckelberry response to Miller questions on migrant shelter

7/19/19: Photos: Shelter for asylum-seekers planned for empty county juvenile center

In a spartan, empty concrete yard hemmed in by block walls, Catholic Community Services' Teresa Cavendish sees a space that can be made "light and airy" with a community effort.

7/21/19: Guest opinion: Kozachik: Compassion must guide vote on Pima County migrant shelter

"All of the questions related to funding are important. But the superior principle is compassion. That must guide the vote, and if it does we’ll see the agreement approved 5-0, to the great credit of Pima County's governing body." - Councilman Steve Kozachik

8/20/19: Pima County shelter opens doors to 400 legal asylum-seekers

After weeks of controversy, a Tucson shelter for asylum-seekers quietly opened its doors two weeks ago and has hosted about 400 people, after the former wing of the juvenile detention center had been "significantly remodeled."

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Sups. Ramon Valadez, Steve Christy and Richard Elias during Monday's meeting.