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Legal Limbo: Nonprofit Concludes Screening Children at Lackland

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A nonprofit that provides legal support to undocumented immigrants has finished screening approximately 1,200 unaccompanied children at Lackland Air Force Base.

In June and July, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) provided “Know Your Rights” presentations and confidential legal screenings to the children.

RAICES Executive Director Jonathan Ryan said he’s been told there are no more children pending processing at Lackland Air Force Base and that the facility could be offline in a couple weeks.

Kenneth J. Wolfe, deputy director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Public Affairs Administration for Children and Families, said the temporary shelter will close over the next two to eight weeks.

“Looking forward, there remains substantial uncertainty about the future flows of unaccompanied children. In order to balance managing costs with limited available resources and remaining prepared for sudden increases in the number of children needing care, HHS’s Administration for Children and Families plans to continue caring for unaccompanied children through a combination of standard shelters and surge capacity shelters,” Wolfe said in an email. Meanwhile, Ryan has said 63 percent of those children qualify for relief from an immigration judge so there is still a lot of paperwork for RAICES to process and while the non-profit has the staff, there’s not enough office space for that staff. So the City of San Antonio has stepped in to help, Ryan said.

The city council will vote Thursday whether to approve a lease with RAICES for the use of the former Benavides Learning Center by Las Palmas Library at 515 Castroville Road. RAICES will have access to the space until October 2 at no cost.

“So early on, RAICES was conducting emergency civil aid response for two months. We undertook this coordination of volunteer efforts with no federal funding because have the experience and are close and are willing to be involved,” Ryan said. “We received funding from a private foundation to hire more staff on a short-term basis through October. So right after receiving funding for staff we were in a pinch because we had no place to put the short-term staff.”

And that’s where the deal with the city comes in. It will allow RAICES an office space near Lackland Air Force Base where its staffers can finish off paperwork for all of the children that were screened during June and July.

“There will be no children or clients going there,” Ryan said. “It’s a temporary office.”

RAICES, however, is seeking more funding and if it receives it the non-profit will reimburse the City of San Antonio. “Under the terms of the lease, the monthly rent is gratis in exchange for RAICES providing education and legal services. A provision has also been inserted into the document providing that in the event RAICES receives funding to offset their cost of operation, they will reimburse the City the fair market value of the office space provided in the amount of $10,000 per month,” the agenda item states. Ryan said if RAICES gets federal funding while at the office space on Castroville Road or retroactively, it will reimburse the city.

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