Last weekend, nearly 500 asylum-seeking women and children in Texas were released from the Karnes County Residential Center in Karnes City and the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley.
Busloads of detainees were then dropped off in San Antonio, where, according to the Sacramento Bee, several of the detainees took shelter in the San Antonio Mennonite Fellowship church.
The release of detainees comes after a federal judge in Austin ruled on Friday that the licensing for the two facilities “runs counter to the general objectives of the Texas Human Resources Code and is, therefore, invalid.”
The two facilities, which were the only two immigration detention centers in Texas licensed to hold children, were essentially stripped of their license.
ICE claims that the move, which surprised many, was actually planned and has nothing to do with the court’s ruling.
Here is some brief footage released by ICE featuring the Karnes County Residential Center:
Credit: McClatchyDC / YouTube
According to RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), a nonprofit agency in San Antonio that assists members of the immigrant community, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) started sending over buses filled with over 460 women and children predominantly from Central America.
RAICES normally receives a caseload of about three families a day, whom they feed and help with transportation, housing, securing legal counsel and any other needs that may arise. Understandably, the organization was not prepared to accommodate so many people at once. Local churches including the San Antonio Mennonite Fellowship have stepped up to help.
Since no clear or official explanation has been given as to why so many mothers and children were released all at once, RAICES director Jonathan Ryan said in a press release,
We can only hope this is a sign that the Obama Administration is finally deciding to end this failed experiment in family detention. We call upon the Obama Administration to continue these releases and end family detention, end the detention of asylum seekers, and cut ties with private prison companies.
Learn more about the mothers and children released from the Texas detention centers here.
If you would like to help RAICES support the mothers and children of the Karnes and Dilley detention centers, you can make a donation here.