TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - If approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, a county planning official tells 9 on Your Side a southside hotel could be re-purposed into a shelter for unaccompanied minors illegally entering the country.
Southwest Key, which offers shelters for unaccompanied children in the United States, contacted the Pima County Planning Department last month.
"We definitely need appropriate children shelters, especially for unaccompanied minors and it is crazy we've waited this long," Border Action Network Executive Director Juanita Molina said.
The influx of children of children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border is an international humanitarian crisis, Molina said.
"We're assimilating women, and children, and families in ways that are not humane and not in compliance with what we would consider standards in the United States of detention," Molina said.
According to Federal government data, between 2004-12, immigration officials caught an average of about 6,800 unaccompanied migrant children. In 2013, that number jumped to close to 25,000 children. The government estimate for this year is 60,000 children.
"It is a trend that many people who observe the border have anticipated and so really the Federal government is a step behind," Molina said.
These desperate children are willing to risk everything trekking through the desert, Molina said, to escape the poverty and persecution in their native Central American countries.
With the way the system is set up now, Molina said they are vulnerable to be exploited in drug and sex trafficking.
"Unfortunately, because they're living in the shadows, it is creating the perfect opportunity for predatory behavior," Molina added.
Southwest Key also applied for a permit to open a shelter within Tucson city limits. City Councilman Steve Kozachik told 9 On Your Side the city will deny that request for zoning reasons. He says the decision has nothing to do with the shelter housing migrant children.