One program is helping undocumented teen refugees adjust to life in the United States. Dr. Sherry Jones, director of the Phoenix Dream Center Living Youth Program talks about the program.
José Cárdenas: In the summer of 2014, ICE and U.S. customs and border protection busted hundreds of undocumented immigrants from south Texas to Arizona, many of them from Central America. There is a program here in the valley helping undocumented teens adjust to life here in the United States. Joining me to talk about this is Dr. Sherry Jones, director of the Phoenix Dream Center Living Youth Program. Dr. Jones, welcome to "Horizonte." So you guys have been in existence since 2006. You hadn't dealt previously with undocumented youth. How did that come about?
Sherry Jones: We began to see a need and what the Dream Center does is when they hear of a need, they try to meet it. We try to find those populations that are in the direst need, whether they are poverty stricken or they are in sexual exploitation or they are unwed pregnant women or whatever the need is. Phoenix Dream Center, our mission is to find a hurt and heal it so when we saw the reports on the news of these undocumented youth that were coming across unaccompanied, they're sent here by their parents and the fact that they end up with nowhere to go. They have no money, they don't speak English, they don't know a big city, they don't know how to ride a bus. There's so much that they don't know and when they come across the border, last year 30,000 of them were apprehended at our southwest borders. So when they turn 18, then they are released. And they either --
José Cárdenas: And those are the ones you're focused on.
Sherry Jones: Those are the ones we're focused on, the 18 to 21-year-olds.
José Cárdenas: As I understand, it's a catalyst for your agency's involvement with this particular group. You work with youth in a variety of difficult circumstances, but the immediate catalyst was the Florence immigration project reached out to you.
Sherry Jones: They said we know you deal with youth, 18 to 21 years old, maybe aged out foster youth or homeless youth. Can you help us with these refugees?
José Cárdenas: And what have you been doing?
Sherry Jones: We bring them in, typically on their 18th birthday because that's when they are released, if the Florence project hasn't completed all their legal paperwork yet, we house them right at the Dream Center on grand avenue we have former embassy suites hotel so it has individual suites and rooms. So we bring them in, provide them with housing, we provide them with clothing and food and everything from their toothbrush to their laundry soap is provided for them free of charge for as long as they need to stay there to get their legal paperwork done.
José Cárdenas: And you've helped how many kids so far?
Sherry Jones: So far in the last five months we've helped a dozen.
José Cárdenas: And if people want more information on your program and what they can do to be involved, how would they get that?
Sherry Jones: They could find it on our website at www.phxdreamcenter.org. They can call (602)346-8767 and find out information about what we're doing. We always need volunteers. We need people who speak Spanish. Most of these kids are coming from Central America, Honduras, El Salvador, some from Mexico and we have one from Africa. But we need volunteers to provide support for these young people so they don't feel so isolated.
José Cárdenas: Hopefully, you'll get those volunteers and we'll have you back on the show to talk more about this great program.
Sherry Jones: That would be totally awesome thank you.
José Cárdenas: Appreciate it.
Dr. Sherry Jones:Director of the Phoenix Dream Center Living Youth Program