Interfaith Welcome Coalition alerted to plans for ‘Ellis Island-type’ facilities at family detention centers

No timeline yet for arrival of asylum seekers, says IWC board chair

SAN ANTONIO – Known for its belief of “loving thy neighbor and welcoming a stranger,” the Interfaith Welcome Coalition was alerted to future plans for family detention centers in Dilley and Karnes City to become “Ellis Island-type” facilities.

Known as rapid processing centers, IWC board chair Dan Klein said the facilities will be receiving asylum seekers from the border and then transporting them to San Antonio, where they’ll be able to continue their journeys to await court dates.

As it has in the past with other migrants arriving in San Antonio, Klein said IWC is staffed with volunteers “at all hours of day and night to welcome people.”

“We assist them with their travel plans. We assist them with supplies. We play with their children,” Klein said.

He said they also make sure the migrants take the right bus or board the correct flight, and help with whatever they need before they leave.

Klein was among the immigrant advocates and non-government organizations (NGOs) on a recent call with Alexander Mayorkas, secretary of Homeland Security.

Klein said he never would have thought “in a million years” that would happen.

“This was a direct result of the new attitude and philosophy that was coming down from Washington,” Klein said. “The emphasis was on humane treatment, on compassionate treatment and treating people with dignity.”

Klein said the DHS secretary told them much of what he said at a recent White House briefing.

“It takes time to build out of the depths of cruelty that the administration before us established,” Mayorka said. ”What we are seeing at the border is the immediate result of the dismantlement of the system, and the time that it takes to rebuilt it virtually from scratch.”

But Klein said IWC already has been helping migrants who are being allowed to the border with hotels and transportation.

He said information about how the public can help IWC fulfill its on-going mission can be found on its website.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.