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Immigrants Need Compassion, Not Detention, Says Archbishop


The Archdiocese of San Antonio is taking a stand against the detention of women and children fleeing violence in Central America. On Thursday, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller said that he was troubled by the opening and expansion of detention centers in Karnes City and Dilley.

Garcia-Siller said he was urging the government to ensure protections for those who had come to the U.S. to escape unthinkable situations in their homeland. He took his concerns outside the San Fernando Cathedral.

“Many of these women are fleeing violence in fear of their lives and the safety of their children,” he said. “They need mercy and compassion, not derision and detention.”

Until recently, the public never put a face to the women being detained. That is, until immigration groups came to their rescue and put up thousands of dollars to bail them out.

Following the release of one detainee from the Karnes County Residential Center several months ago, one woman, through her tears over missing her family, said the facility felt like a jail. RAICES executive director Jonathan Ryan interpreted her message. “She was asking why, she looked happy but she also looked sad,” Ryan said, “and it's because she lost her mother and lost her friends who were back there. It’s a tough journey.”

The archbishop agreed with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which issued a statement that said it was inhumane to house young mothers with children in restrictive detention facilities, and they should be afforded the full benefit of domestic and international law.

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.