County judge’s order denied

Attorney Myles Garza didn’t have much to report to Cameron County Court-at-Law No. 4 Judge Sheila Garcia Bence on Thursday afternoon regarding the guardianship investigation she ordered into the Southwest Key Programs-Casa Padre facility.

On July 11, Bence appointed Hailey A. Hobren as an ad litem investigator, appointed six guardians and ordered Southwest Key to allow the group access to each child in Casa Padre to determine whether they are in need of guardians to represent their best interests. Bence appointed Garza as an attorney to represent any of those children in need of a guardian.

She ordered Southwest Key Programs to provide access July 19 and 20, but the group was not able to make it inside the largest facility in the country that holds unaccompanied minors and an unknown number of children separated from their parents as a result of zero-tolerance prosecutions for misdemeanor immigration violations.

A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union ordered the federal government to reunite separated children with their parents by July 26, though 711 children remained separated from their parents because their parents have either been deported, are a danger to the child or have not been identified.

It’s unknown whether any separated children remain at Southwest Key Programs-Casa Padre.

And Hobren and those court-appointed guardians were unable to gain access to any children at Casa Padre because staff with Southwest Key Programs and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which contracts with Southwest Key Programs, refused to honor Bence’s court order, even after a Cameron County constable served Southwest Key.

Instead, a lawyer with the Department of Justice told Hobren the guardianship investigation would be moved to federal court, essentially putting Bence’s order on hold.

[email protected]

A more complete version of this story is available on