SAN ANTONIO – Nearly two dozen immigrant children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border are being housed in San Antonio at Catholic Charities shelters.
Catholic Charities CEO Antonio Fernandez confirmed that a total of 82 immigrant children from Central America are currently in the shelters.
Of those, 22 were separated from their families at the border, Fernandez said.
The other 60 children, who Fernandez said most likely came across the border alone, were already in shelters prior to the recent separation of families.
Fernandez said the children, who range in age from 5 to 17 years old, are safe and being taken care of. He said when the children get to the shelters, they are provided basic needs and given a safe and nurturing temporary home.
"We treat all kids like human beings. That's what we do with the kids from Texas, the kids from outside Texas, or the U.S.," he said. "We have doctors, we have therapists, we have lawyers to ensure they are well taken care of, because I mean, to us, their safety and well-being is the maximum priority that I have."
Fernandez said the children arrive at the shelters looking frightened and it takes time to earn their trust. He said many children have been transferred to multiple facilities and some even in detention centers, which is why it's important to make them feel somewhat at home.
"They have a soccer field, they have basketball courts. But at the end of the day, this isn't their home. They want to be with their father, their mother, their family. So at least when they're with us. We try our best to have a home away from home for them," he said.
Fernandez said children are usually allowed to stay for 90 days.
He said Catholic Charities isn't in a position to reunite immigrant families due to federal laws, but the agency works hand-in-hand with consulates and agencies like the Office Of Refugee Resettlement.
Fernandez said local residents can help the children by volunteering their time, donating money, clothing and food.