Hundreds of child migrants being held in a Texan detention facility, mostly girls aged 13-17, were quickly relocated from the Houston-area shelter, under the management of the Health and Human Services department this past Saturday, and the shelter was abruptly closed, as reported by local news outlets.
“Immigrant-led organizations are searching for answers as to why officials abruptly closed a Houston-area shelter which was housing hundreds of young migrant girls on Saturday,” an ABC affiliate in Houston noted on Sunday. ” flurry of activity was seen at the shelter just before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the teens would be transferred or reunited with family or sponsors, more than two weeks after the facility opened. Buses were seen leaving and arriving at the shelter, and boxes and computers were being moved by workers Saturday.”
“About 450 girls housed since April 1 in an Emergency Intake Site for Unaccompanied Children operated by the National Association of Christian Churches near Bush Intercontinental Airport were being moved,” According to ABC news national, making note that the girls were being held for far longer than the period of time mandated by immigration courts.
HHS stated that the facility was only designed to be “temporary” and that the children were scheduled to be moved.
“The NACC Houston EIS and other Emergency Intake Sites are intended for use as a temporary measure,” the HHS released in a statement.
Activists for immigration, however, who were allowed to tour the facility this past week and then publically criticized the agency about unsafe conditions, have stated they believe there is more to the event.
“Officials with FIEL, an immigrant advocacy group in Houston, praised the removal of the girls that FIEL director Cesar Espinosa said are 13-17 years old, but questioned the reason for the move,” ABC news stated. “Espinosa said there was an incident at the center Friday night and a FIEL employee saw law enforcement and ambulances outside the center, but could not determine what happened.”
The “incident” took place this past Saturday, but the police in Houston refused to make comment to ABC on what actually occurred.
Espinosa, who was party to those who were allowed to tour the facility last week, stated that COVID-19 precautions were not followed and that the children being housed in the facility were packed almost shoulder to shoulder and were forced to remain on cots all day, excluding short shower and bathroom breaks.
“There was really no space for social distancing … they were only allowed to get up from their cot to use the restroom as well as to shower,” Espinosa stated in a comment to ABC. “Everything that was being brought in was temporary. The showers were temporary, they were bringing in temporary restrooms, so this space was not equipped to house anybody, much less children.”
HHS did make a comment that around 130 of these girls were to be reunited with a “sponsor” or family member instead of being moved to the new location.