Tyler Vermillion shares his experience after working with detained families at Karnes County Residential Center
Working with the families at the Karnes County Residential Center has been one of the best experiences in my life. The families that I met were amazing and just need our help, not our detention centers.
Working with one of the families has been particularly difficult. A mother, her 21-year-old daughter, adult son (who is detained in Pennsylvania), eight-year-old daughter, and grandson are all detained at Karnes. The troubling thing about their case is that they did everything right. The mother’s husband was killed for his political affiliations. The family, fearing for their lives after multiple threats, decided to leave the country and seek asylum in the United States, and did so the correct way. They arrived at the border and turned themselves in asking for asylum. They were taken to the ‘freezers’ (a place where they have to sleep on the ground and are given frozen food to eat). After a day in the freezers, they were then taken to Karnes.
The reason this case was so hard is because they presented themselves at the border instead of sneaking across the border. This makes them arriving aliens which means that they are not provided with the same rights. They are given a blanket bond by ICE but are not allowed to get it redetermined by a judge.
Since the mother and her two adult children each have to pay bond to get out of Karnes and since they are not allowed to get their bond redetermined, they are stuck paying $7,500 each. Basically, for this family to get out of detention and have a chance at working with a lawyer on their asylum case, they have to pay $22,500. This is outrageous. As a result, we have been trying to help them by contacting ICE to lower their bond and helping them raise money. We have a GoFundMe page set up for people to donate. It is unjust to ask a family to pay $22,500 to get them out of prison when they are not criminals. Also when the officer in charge of their case asked his supervisors to lower their bond to $2,500 each, his request was denied.
Even though I do not plan to be an immigration lawyer after graduation, this experience has encouraged me to commit some of my time to try and help these women and children and immigrants in the future.