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SA attorney: 3 detained Syrian refugee families Christians, not Muslim

Families presented themselves at Laredo port of entry

SAN ANTONIO – Three Syrian families who over the past month presented themselves to officials at an international bridge in Laredo are not Muslim, according to their attorney, Jonathan Ryan of San Antonio.

Ryan said the families are Christians, including one Catholic, who fear they will be returned to what is largely considered the most dangerous country in the world.

“Are they going to be returned to that heart of darkness in Syria where people, like them, Christians are being killed?” Ryan asked.

Ryan is the executive director of Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services that has worked primarily with Central American families, many who are still held in detention centers.

“All of our clients have fled extreme violence only to be jailed in the United States,” Ryan said.

He said family detention has been successfully challenged in court as unconstitutional and illegal, but the federal government is still trying to pursue a “failed experiment.”

Ryan said detaining the three Syrian families is “the new flavor of the week reason as to why we should have family detention.” 

Authorized to speak on behalf of two of the families, Ryan said two mothers with two children are housed at a facility in Dilley. The fathers are held at the detention center in Pearsall.

Ryan said they were supposed to be released last Friday. He said “law enforcement interest” was given as the reason why their parole was denied.

“Christian refugees fleeing persecution seeking our help in the U.S., being thrown into for profit jails indefinitely, it makes no sense,” Ryan said.

He said while in detention, asylum staff have determined the families have credible fears.

“Their identity is not in question. Whether they are a security threat is not in question,” Ryan said.

He said only U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can release the families.

ICE released a statement, saying the agency, “makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis. ICE is currently evaluating these cases."