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Some migrant children arrive with illnesses after family reunification, group says

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Some migrant children arrive with illnesses after family reunification, group says

Image: Catholic Charities Volunteers
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Suzanne Gamboa NBC News
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SAN ANTONIO — Two children reunited with their parents after they were separated at the border had scabies when they arrived at a charitable group here that provides food, clothing and housing services to migrant families.

While the cases were not serious, they prompted officials with Catholic Charities of San Antonio to put out a plea for volunteer medical professionals in anticipation of hundreds more reunified families arriving at the charity to receive services.

Catholic Charities CEO Antonio Fernandez said the group's workers disposed of the clothes of the two kids with apparent skin problems and informed employees to take precautionary measures such as washing their own hands.

One of the children with scabies, who arrived Monday, also had breathing issues, Fernandez said. A parent also had some respiratory issues, he said.

Volunteers at Catholic Charities San Antonio assist families that were separated at the border with clothing, food and temporary housing assistance before they move on to other parts of Texas or the country.
Volunteers at Catholic Charities San Antonio assist families that were separated at the border with clothing, food and temporary housing assistance before they move on to other parts of Texas or the country.Suzanne Gamboa

"The cases are not serious but I would like a to have medical personnel who are pediatricians to help us," Fernandez said.

Another child who came to the group's facility on Monday had a broken arm, apparently from a fall while his family was on a train that many migrants ride through Mexico on their journey to the U.S. border. That child had not been separated from his mother.

Fernandez said they took the child to a hospital to make sure the break was healing well, and it was.

Catholic Charities has been told to prepare to receive 400 families. Families have been trickling in since last week.

Seven families arrived on Monday and Tuesday, most without health issues. Because the group is not being given definite times of arrival and families can arrive throughout the day, the San Antonio group is keeping its center, which usually closes at 8 p.m., open 24 hours.

On Tuesday, two more families arrived just before 8 p.m., not too long after families that had arrived earlier in the day left for hotels, where Catholic Charities of San Antonio is putting them up until they can move on to their next destination.

One mother said she was heading to North Carolina in the morning to join family. She had been reunited with a son she had been separated from for about two months that she said were very sad months.

"Many mothers like me are very sad because they are not with their children," she said. Asked if she had a message for those mothers, she said: "They are going to reach the finish line and God is always going to help them."

There has been an outpouring of support from the city, with people dropping off various donations, including new clothes, toys, gift cards and monetary donations.

"What touched me the most is we were able to give food to the family that a restaurant here in San Antonio (Mi Tierra) donates. It was black beans, rice, meat and tortillas and the woman said that was the best meal she had in five months," Fernandez said.

One father, who initially wanted to speak to media but changed his mind, arrived with his son and both were in good health, Fernandez said.

The father had been in Port Isabel Detention Center and his son in a San Antonio facility housing migrant children separated from their parents. The two were reunited Tuesday at the South Texas Detention Complex about 57 miles southwest of San Antonio near Pearsall, Texas, hours before being transported to Catholic Charities.

The man had come from Guatemala, where his wife remains and was headed to Indianapolis to join a sister-in-law. He has requested asylum. He did not have an attorney.

"The boy is playing upstairs with a girl. They are running, jumping, playing with toys as if nothing happened," Fernandez said.

Adults in families that are released from custody are given ankle bracelets by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are required to check in with immigration officials and to show up for future hearings regarding their cases.

The federal government has been under pressure to meet a court-ordered July 26 deadline to reunite parents who were separated from their children by the federal government.

The government already has reunited 57 children under age 5 with their parents, which also was ordered by a federal judge in California presiding in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union to force the government to return the children to their parents.

Many of the reunifications are happening outside the view of cameras and media. Immigration officials are bringing some children to Port Isabel and the facility in Pearsall, and the initial reunions are happening there, where media does not have access.

Some detained parents were moved from Port Isabel to the detention center near Pearsall without the knowledge of their lawyers.

Ofelia Calderon who serves on the board of the Dulles Justice Coalition said information from ICE for attorneys has been so spotty that she is afraid to tell a severely depressed client that "reunification is coming" because "I'm afraid to give her a false hope."

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