Migrant asylum seekers will be housed in former juvenile detention center next month

A bid to use two Tucson schools to house migrant families has been called off, with officials conceding there were too many hurdles to use either location.

Instead, Pima County will move forward with plans to convert a portion of the Pima County Juvenile Justice Complex that is not being used into a dorm-like shelter for asylum seekers. The juvenile facility is on East Ajo Way near South Kino Parkway.

Officials had been under intense pressure to identify a place to house up to 200 migrant families because the current location being used by Catholic Community Services, the former Benedictine Monastery in midtown Tucson, is expected to close its doors in the coming weeks.

Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, along with TUSD Governing Board President Adelita Grijalva, wanted to explore moving the families to Menlo Park Elementary School, at 1100 W. Fresno St., and Howenstine Magnet High School, 555 S. Tucson Blvd., rather than use portions of the county’s Juvenile Justice Complex.

But both former schools could not easily be converted into housing for migrants, officials said.

Elías said it was important to consider other locations after some Tucsonans balked at putting migrant families in a detention center.

“The county is listening to all community voices and trying to find a space for the folks that need help right now,” Elías said.

Councilman Steve Kozachik said the last-minute proposal to use TUSD schools — made after the county had publicly announced it planned on using the detention center — focused more on optics than truly helping the migrants.

“Those of us who have been involved with this for the past five years don’t need any more 11th-hour theatrics. The county facility will be a welcoming place of respite. People need to get over what it used to be and live in the present,” he said.

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