Feds move 16 fathers after “disturbance” at Karnes immigration facility
Federal agents blamed a disturbance at a Karnes County detention center for immigrant families for having to forcibly remove 16 men from the facility this week.
No injuries were reported and no children were involved in the disturbance, officials said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement dressed in riot gear flooded the Karnes County Residential Center after about 40 men were involved in the disturbance Wednesday, the Justice Department told a federal judge late Thursday. The facility has 630 men and their sons who were reunified under orders by U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego.
“ICE San Antonio deployed additional law enforcement resources to control the situation, and as a precautionary measure, instructed all visitors to leave the facility,” ICE said in a statement that mirrored a filing in Sabraw’s court by lawyers with the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation. “No children housed at KCRC were involved in this incident; all were attending school at the time.”
“Sixteen adult male residents were transferred out of KCRC and housed overnight at another facility, but (were) returned to KCRC Thursday evening,” the statement continued. “No one was injured during this incident.”
The San Antonio-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, which represents the families in the facility, said its attorneys, legal assistants and volunteers who were meeting with detained fathers and children were hurriedly evacuated from the facility on Wednesday afternoon.
As they were leaving, they saw armed ICE officers in the hallways of the facility. RAICES later received a call from one detained father, who described “a horrifying scene of approximately 60 ICE officers, many of whom were armed and wearing gas masks, arresting fathers.”
RAICES said the 16 fathers, who are among its clients, were sent to the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall. RAICES said it didn’t find out until later that ICE moved the 16 for “disruptive behavior” that caused “safety concerns,” including “not wanting to take their children to school” and “not wanting to participate in activities.”
The incident follows reports about two weeks ago that several fathers have protested their lingering detention by refusing to eat or to send their kids to school. During a tour of a different detention center for immigrant families in Dilley, where women and children are held, ICE officials denied there had been a hunger strike at the Karnes facility.
“ICE has consistently claimed that family detention facilities are humane and civil in nature, even comparing them to summer camps. However, summer camps do not get stormed by armed guards who arrest their campers and separate them from their children solely to retaliate against non-violent protest,” RAICES said in a statement. “RAICES condemns these actions and all attempts to further terrorize and traumatize asylum seeking families.”
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @gmaninfedland