Press Release

New Team of RNRN Nurse Volunteers Arrives Today in Tucson to Provide Medical Aid to Migrants

Nurses will be available for interviews April 26– 28

A new team of nurse volunteers with the Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) will arrive today in Tucson to provide medical aid at the Casa Alitas shelter operated by Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona. To date, RNRN, a disaster-relief project of the California Nurses Foundation (CNF) and National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, has sent 12 deployments of nurses to Tucson from around the US to care for migrants recently released from federal detention facilities. 

RN Erin Oberson at the shelter earlier this month.

Nurses returning from past deployments have expressed great concern about the harsh and unhealthy conditions children and their parents are facing in federal detention, conditions that have led to the deteriorated medical states of some migrants. The migrants report that they are forced to choose between having a blanket over them or under them, and are kept in freezing “ice box” conditions.

“My understanding [from talking to the patients] is when you go into detention, you take off your clothes, and you can only wear one layer in, so everyone picks a jacket, but then you don’t have an underlayer to hold the warmth in, so everyone said it was very cold,” said RN, Mallory Carrellas, a nurse who traveled from Baltimore to volunteer with RNRN last month.  

Migrants also report to nurses that they continue to have vital medications confiscated, and are fed minimal food including just crackers and frozen burritos left out to thaw. Most arrive dehydrated and hungry, and so are immediately provided some water, fruit and a bowl of soup.

Since late February, RNRN has deployed 12 three-person teams of mostly Spanish-speaking nurses and nurse practitioners to staff the Tucson shelter every weekend, 24 hours a day, and will continue to do so through May.

“Working with RNRN has been an amazing gift,” said Teresa Cavendish, director of operations for the Casa Alitas program. “The compassion, the understanding, and the empathy of the nurses, accompanied with the consistent, high-quality, round-the-clock nursing care they provide when they are with us, is more than we ever expected.”

RNRN volunteer nurses have cared for thousands of patients during disaster relief and humanitarian assistance deployments that include the South Asian tsunami (2004); Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005); the Haiti earthquake (2010); Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda (2013); Continuing Promise with the Department of Defense (2010, 2015); Hurricanes Harvey and Maria (2017); Volcan de Fuego Relief in Guatemala (2018), Hurricane Michael (2018); and the Camp Fire in Butte County, Calif. (2018); and ongoing deployments to the Arizona border to provide medical care to asylum seekers (2019).