First illegal immigrants arrive at Karnes County shelter

Facility will hold up to 532 people who enter country illegally

KARNES COUNTY, Texas – The first women and children from Central America arrived at the Karnes County Residential Center Friday morning.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracted with Karnes County to open the shelter to women and children from Central America who had entered the country illegally and taken into custody in the Rio Grande Valley.

The first bus carrying the immigrants arrived around 7 a.m.

Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva said his department was prepared for protesters, but when the women and children arrived at the housing facility, all was quiet.

"It's a big relief, it really is," Villanueva said. "I had the police department and the Department of Public Safety also on stand-by to assist me."

Instead, his deputies kept an eye on the busy roadway to help escort the passengers safely into the facility.

Villanueva said after some concern that he wasn't getting enough information from the government about the hundreds of detainees headed into Karnes County, he's now in the loop.

"We met yesterday. We did the tour, the walk-through," Villanueva said. "We sat down and talked about what the plan was and what we were prepared to do."

As many as 532 people can fit in the shelter, Villanueva said. About 40 people came in on the first bus, an ICE official said. 

"Their plan is that it's done in a timely manner within a week, so that's kind of what we're planning for," he said. "Hopefully, the transition is smooth. If it is, they're going to try to bring them in here as quickly as possible."

The second bus is expected some time later on Friday.

Two buses are expected to arrive daily, with a total of about 75 more women and children expected every day for the next week.