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Mass Detention Release Sends 1,000 Migrants to San Antonio 

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Apparent overcrowding in Rio Grande Valley border patrol holding facilities has caused authorities to mass release detainees, many of which end up in San Antonio. Catholic Charities, a non-profit dedicated to providing, among other resources, refugee and immigrant services, claimed that approximately 1,000 immigrants were dropped off in San Antonio over the past week.

“We truly don’t know when people are coming,” J. Antonio Fernandez, President of Catholic Charities said in an interview with KENS 5. “We have a major issue sometimes with logistics, because sometimes we may have a day where only five people show up, but sometimes we have a day where 200 people show up.”

Fernandez clarified that San Antonio is often used a travel hub or “second port” for released migrants dropped off in El Paso, Laredo and McAllen by Immigrant and Customs Enforcement before they reach their final destination. Most migrants arrive via bus, and the time between trips can leave many stranded in the Greyhound station and airport for hours, if not days.

Catholic Charities and other non-profit groups have offered to house and feed those in need, but the rapid, unpredictable influx of migrants has left those organizations stretched thin for resources and volunteers.

“We need the community to help us, with financial support and donations; we always struggle,” Fernandez said. “We did speak to the City of San Antonio this week and they said that if we need help, they will support us, but we need help now.”

On Oct. 23, exactly two weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, ICE began a policy of mass releasing certain detainees with the intention of making room in detention centers for the oft-discussed, asylum-seeking migrant caravan. Critics chastised the timing of the decision as baldly political move, meant to stoke conservative fear and sway contentious border state elections, where immigrant had been a hot topic, to the right.

The policy has resulted in thousands of processed immigrants being dropped off in border cities with no notice from federal authorities or help from the federal government. In January, 600 released immigrants were dropped off in El Paso unannounced during a three-day span. ICE normally coordinated and scheduled drop-offs with a local shelter, but failed to do so in this instance.

This most recent round of mass releases followed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's visit to McAllen on Thursday, March 21.

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