Local immigration attorney opens center for undocumented children
POSTED: Friday, July 4, 2014 - 5:55pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 8:24am
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — Images of children without their parents, draped in donated blankets, and sleeping on the cold, concrete floors of overcrowded federal holding cells, spurred an El Paso couple to help them.
"We were watching the news one night and we saw the story of all of these children crossing in, an influx of children from Latin America, unaccompanied, some as young as 2 years old, and my wife saw that story and said this is our cause," said El Paso immigration attorney Thomas Randolph Rey.
The next day, Rey says he and his wife Mamie Salazar-Harper began the process of purchasing a building in East El Paso that used to be an intervention center for parolees, and converting it into a "kid-friendly" immigration center with toys and activities for the children. They decided to name it the "The Thomas Randolph Rey Family Immigration Center."
"The cost is beyond imagination. My wife and I have just put up all the money and we said we're going to help these people," said Rey.
The center has enough beds to house 76 children at one time, and also has an industrial kitchen and a medical center.
"We kind of accelerated our schedule to open by two weeks so we can get these kids off these warehouse floors and actually get them into a system that works for them so we can expedite them through the process," said Mark Young, the center's Chief Operating Officer.
The unaccompanied minors will also get new clothing, a medical and dental exam, and legal representation.
Rey, who is an immigration attorney himself says they've got a team of lawyers ready to work on the childrens' cases for free.
"They're God's children. Everybody is God's children. We have to help these children," he said.
As of July 7th, there will be 8 shelters in El Paso and Las Cruces, including the Thomas Randolph Rey Family Immigration Center, with beds for about 400 undocumented immigrants.
So far, close to 2000 immigrants have been processed in El Paso.