El Paso-About 30 parents who were separated from their children after attempting to cross the border illegally were released from jail and on Sunday were taken to Casa Vides, a shelter in Downtown El Paso.
The group of 32 parents, 19 men and 13 women, had their criminal cases for entering the country illegally withdrawn after President Donald Trump signed an executive order last week to end the separation of families as part of the zero tolerance policy.
Many of the parents in the group were transferred from the El Paso County Jail to U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities to be processed for release. Then they were taken to Casa Vides, where they were going be assisted in the process of finding their children.
The children are in custody of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement.
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, HHS had 2,053 separated children in custody as of Wednesday.
“It’s the first group release of parents,” said Ruben Garcia, director of Annunciation House. Casa Vides is one of the shelters that Annunciation House operates. Parents who recently were released from jail arrive
The release of the undocumented parents comes three days after the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Texas said that all the immigration cases involving parents separated from their children would be dismissed. On Sunday, Garcia said the charges were not dismissed by a judge, but rather withdrawn by the government.
Just before 3 p.m. Sunday, a white bus with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection logo and a U.S. Border Patrol van parked outside Casa Vides on Leon Street. One by one, 26 immigrants got off the bus, and six more exited the van.
As they got off the vehicles and walked into the shelter, some of them smiled as they were received by Annunciation House volunteers, supporters and members of the media. The media was asked not to talk to them.
The parents were seen carrying documents and small plastic bags with their personal belongings.
Before the immigrant parents arrived at the shelter, Garcia and Taylor Levy, the legal coordinator for Annunciation House, held a news conference.
“I’m gratified that we are beginning to see the signs of this kind of policy coming to an end,” Garcia said. “I wish I could tell you what the future might look like, but for right now I’m gratified that we have stopped, as a country, taking children away from parents.”
Annunciation House will be assisting the parents in trying to find their children and will provide them with pro bono immigration legal services for the rest of their immigration cases, whether they stay in El Paso or move somewhere else in the United States, Levy said.
Levy said neither Annunciation House nor the parents know where the children are.
“No one really knows where their children are necessarily, except for the government somehow knows,” she said.
“They are really worried about their children. We assume that the majority of them have not been able to speak to their children at all since they’ve been detained.”
Levy said Annunciation House will work with other local organizations to find out whether any of the children still are in the El Paso area, specifically at the tent city in Tornillo.
“It’s our understanding that most likely a fair amount of these children have been moved outside of the El Paso area. For that reason, we are going to be looking for them,” she said