SAN ANTONIO – Freed over the weekend from federal detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley, at least 350 Central American women and children found refuge at the Mennonite Church of San Antonio.
It has become an extension of Casa de RAICES that usually sees only a few dozen families a night.
Even so, according to RAICES spokesperson Amy Fischer, the organization has assisted 4,500 men, women and children from January to October.
By Monday, the church located in the 1400 block of South St. Mary’s, had become an emergency shelter packed with families, providing them a place to sleep, food, as well as games for the children.
“We don’t know if it’s ICE trying to signal that maybe they’re going to be releasing families following the Texas judge’s ruling,” said Justin Tullius, associate executive director of RAICES, an immigrant-advocacy group that also provides legal services and support.
Last Friday, a district judge in Austin issued a final judgment preventing what Tullius calls family prisons from being licensed by the state of Texas as child-care facilities.
The ruling that was considered a major victory for families seeking asylum, is being reviewed by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement, according to an agency spokesperson.
However, the ICE statement points out the latest releases were part of “normal operations (and) not in response to the court ruling.”
The spokesperson said operational activities at the detention centers “continue without interruption at this time.”
The ICE statement did not address whether the releases were trying to make room for thousands of other Central American families fleeing ongoing violence in Central America, which is part of the latest influx at the border.
“What we do know is that they’re going to continue locking up families and children in prisons, and we call on them to stop that,” Tullius said.