"Family detention is extremely difficult to do, if not impossible, without traumatizing children and breaking down family structure," Brané said. "We're very concerned."
For now, after initial processing, Border Patrol officials are releasing the immigrant moms and kids at a bus station in downtown McAllen, where church volunteers whisk them to the Sacred Heart church. There, the women are able to shower for the first time in several days and stock up on donated clothes and boxed lunches for the bus ride to their final destinations, said Ofelia De Los Santos, a Catholic Diocese spokeswoman.
The church sees between 150 and 200 women a day, mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, she said. Clients have included pregnant women, women cradling newborns, and a 97-year-old female immigrant. They pay anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 to get from their home country to across the Texas border.
"These women are putting their lives on the line so they can escape terrible conditions in their countries," De Los Santos said.