Immigration lawyers say hundreds of migrant children may have to stay in facilities like Freeman Coliseum for weeks.
SAN ANTONIO – Immigration lawyers say migrant children who arrive in Alamo City and seek asylum in the US may have to stay in San Antonio for weeks.
The government will release unaccompanied minors to one parent or close relative. Children can exit shelters even with well-screened “sponsors” – effectively people whom the Department of Health and Human Services deems capable of caring for a child.
In order to take custody of a child, a sponsor does not have to prove that he is legally resident in the USA.
The federal government is striving to get children out of emergency shelters and into apartments as quickly as possible.
“There is a system that has been in place and working for years,” said lawyer Sara Ramey. “Most of these kids have places to go. It will only take time to connect the dots.”
Ramey estimates that at institutions like the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, children will wait weeks, not months, to be released.
“It doesn’t seem to be high enough that we don’t have manpower and government capacity,” said Ramey. “It’s more about shifting resources.”
However, children who are released are not guaranteed permanent residence.
Ramey, who works with the Migrant Center for Human Rights, argues that the “great, vast majority” of children seeking asylum in the US come from dangerous situations in South and Central American countries.
But she says people seeking permanent residence are sent home 50% to 60% of the time and are unable to convince an immigration judge that their home country is too dangerous to return.
“Because our laws are so restrictive right now, there will be a challenge for many of these children,” she said.