Catholic Charities volunteers prepare for immigrant family reunifications in San Antonio

Director says up to 400 families could be reunified

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter, Pat Barton - Assignment Editor

SAN ANTONIO - The federal government has reached out to Catholic Charities to help in assisting hundreds of immigrant families who are expected to be reunited several months after being separated at the border.

Antonio Fernandez, Catholic Charities San Antonio director, said the reunions could begin as early as Saturday.

Volunteers are already preparing to host as many as 400 families. Fernandez said the organization is expecting 30 to 100 families this weekend, which is why volunteers have been working tirelessly, organizing donated food, clothes, shoes and other necessities to make the families feel welcome.

"In 30 hours, we have tons of donations of food and clothing, gift cards. We have had a family who was housed for a night," Fernandez said.

The immigrants are expected to arrive between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Catholic Charities San Antonio is one of four sites selected for reunions. Others are in McAllen, El Paso and Phoenix.

The families will arrive on two separate buses, one filled with parents and the other with children.

After the families have reunited, they will go through a paperwork process. Then, they will be fed and given clothes and placed in a hotel for two days before being taken to an airport or bus station to go to their next destination.

“We are family here. We are helping families. And at the end of the day, no parent should be separated from their child," Fernandez said.

"That will be the first time they see each other, so maybe it would be better for them to see each other and be with each other and play with each other before the paperwork," Fernandez said.

The children and parents had been separated by the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance policy," which has affected more than 2,000 undocumented immigrant families. A court has since ordered that children and their parents be reunited.

Many of the parents have said they came to the U.S. after fleeing violence and gang threats in their home countries.

Fernandez said he does not know when the first families are expected to arrive or how many will come. He said when they arrive, the goal is to invite them in as if they are family. 

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