DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A team from Catholic Charities Dallas traveled to the Texas border to help newly reunited families take the next step.
Avril Knox, the agency’s Director of Programs Refugee Services, is among those who led the team of eight staffers and four volunteers. “It was absolutely rewarding.”
After the parents got to see their children for the first time since being separated weeks earlier, Knox says the team helped one thousand of the families coordinate their travel plans so they could connect with their relatives across the country. “The most rewarding part of it was seeing those families together.”
Late Thursday, the federal government announced 1,820 children had been reunited with their parents, but that 711 children remain in custody because their parents are ineligible to be with them.
A federal judge previously ordered all youngsters be brought back to their parents.
Nearly 2,600 children between the ages of five and 17 were separated at the southern border after the Trump administration temporarily prosecuted parents who entered the U.S. with their children.
That was a change from the previous policy of having parents go through the civil immigration courts.
While the migrant families’ relatives paid for their bus and plane tickets, Knox says their team helped them book their trips and then drove them to the bus station and airport. “We had some in Nebraska, we were sending folks to Florida, California. Not very many to Dallas, maybe about two or three.”
Knox says she had to turn away volunteers who wanted to help.
While a labor of love, she acknowledges it was a lot of work. “There were long days, 12, 14, 15, 17 hours. A couple of days we didn’t sleep at all.”
The team helped hundreds of people a day, and each family had a story to tell.
Knox remembered one boy who had just turned 10.
“It was his birthday and so we made a big effort of trying to sing happy birthday and get a birthday cake for him. When we sang Happy Birthday, he cried and he was in disbelief that this was actually happening because his fear was that he would never have another birthday with her. All he could do is put his hands over his mouth and he had tears and we had tears. It was a nice coming together for everyone.”
Knox says she would definitely volunteer again, but hopes there won’t be that same need.