Congresswoman gives update on 300 migrant girls housed in Houston

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The first bus of unaccompanied migrant children arrived at a Houston-area shelter shortly after 6 p.m. on Friday night.

Federal authorities, community and faith leaders worked together for a few days to prepare the shelter that will house the children, which are all girls, at a facility being run by the National Association of Christian Churches.

The facility will have 500 beds. Authorities are asking local media not to identify the exact location of the shelter to protect the children's safety.

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The additional buses arrived Saturday at a north Houston facility where community and faith leaders are working together to house 500 or more migrant girls.

On Saturday afternoon, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee gave an update at the center.

Jackson Lee said all of the young girls she came in contact with inside the facility each have warm beds, good food and were smiling.

"We have a full medical team there, a full food service that the children can enjoy, as well as snacks," she said.

Additionally, FEMA has been involved in making sure the girls have access to food, clothes and other essentials they need.

Jackson Lee added that the children will have the option to be quickly reunited with a family member while they undergo various immigration processes, contrary to previous protocols.

"I spoke to a child who had been in the desert for 12 days. Every child that I spoke to, these were girls, and they were under 14, had crossed the Rio Grande at night," the congresswoman said in a briefing on Thursday. "Every one of them had that frightening experience."

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Community and faith leaders are working together to house 500 or more migrant girls at a holding facility in north Houston.

On Friday afternoon, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia toured the facility.

"I had a good visit with the pastor and I assured him if there was anything he needed from my office, or any message that need to get to the White House, count on me," said Rep. Garcia.

Federal authorities kept media far away from the process, but it was clear the bus transported a number of children.

Jimenez said she is prepared to volunteer and help the children to the immigration process.

"They really pull on your heart strings," she said. "They are alone. Most don't come with any parents. They are very brave. They're fleeing from terrible conditions in their country."

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The National Association of Christian Churches in Houston is opening an emergency intake site for about 500 unaccompanied children. There has been a request for volunteers and some activity is happening at a warehouse in north Houston. Hit play to learn more.

There are 10 migrant housing facilities in total; nine are in Texas and one is in San Diego.

The largest holding center is at Fort Bliss near El Paso, with 5,000 beds. The one in Houston is on the smaller side with 500 beds.

Here are the details for all nine Texas centers:
  • Carrizo Springs - 500 beds
  • Carrizo Springs - 952 beds
  • Fort Bliss - 5,000 beds
  • Dallas - 2,300 beds
  • Houston- 500 beds
  • Midland - 700 beds
  • Pecos - 2,000 beds
  • San Antonio - 2,400 beds
  • San Antonio - 350 beds

All 10 centers combined will have about 13,000 beds.

Video inside some holding centers shows overcrowding, not enough beds, toiletries or access to medical services.

RELATED: More than 4,000 migrants, many kids, crowded into Texas facility
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A tour revealed a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 migrants were crammed into a space intended for 250.

Desiree Salinas with Houston Catholic Charities is helping dozens of migrant children, families, and asylum seeking immigrants here in Houston. She expects the number of migrants needing help to continue to rise, so they're ramping up resources.

"All hands on deck kind of redistributing some resources, refocusing some different staff," she said.

The White House says it will be following all Centers for Disease Control guidelines when it comes to the pandemic and will be testing all children for COVID-19.

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