500 migrant girls transported from Houston holding facility after reported incident

Sunday, April 18, 2021
Hundreds of migrant girls transported after abrupt closure of Houston shelter
Representatives aiming to help the migrant girls said they want answers regarding the heavy law enforcement presence on Friday night before agencies shut the facility down.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- 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.

A 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.

"Today, HHS announced that all of the children in HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) care at the Emergency Intake Site (EIS) for Unaccompanied Children at the National Association of Christian Churches site in Houston, Texas (NACC Houston) will be immediately unified with sponsors or transferred to an appropriate ORR facility," agency officials said in a statement released Saturday.

Nearly 130 of the reported 450 girls at the site already have plans to be united with a sponsor, HHS officials said.

Representatives from local non-profit, FIEL Houston, said Saturday afternoon the conditions inside the facility were not appropriate for the girls being kept there.

Immigration activist are working to find out why exactly officials decided to abruptly shut down a Houston-area facility holding 500 migrant girls on Saturday.

FIEL executive director Ceaser Espinosa said the conditions inside the warehouse were 'inappropriate for anyone, especially young girls', who range in age from 13-17 years old. He added that employees of the facility would only let the teens get out of their cots a few times a day to shower and use the restroom.

Fiel member Alan Cisnero said while he was out with his family Friday night, he noticed a large amount of first responders arriving to the facility. He said he then proceeded to see what the issue was. Cisnero said officials told him they couldn't share much information regarding who was involved in the incident.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said Saturday a federal employee who was volunteering at the facility had a medical emergency and died.

"That was the only reason that there were ambulances there the night before," Jackson Lee said.

While the medical incident may not have been related to the facility's conditions, Espinosa said 500 girls were on the roster at the time, meaning it was at capacity. Due to the amount of girls, he said they were unable to properly social distance inside the warehouse.

"The NACC Houston EIS and other Emergency Intake Sites are intended for use as a temporary measure," DHS officials said.

The reason for the transfers Saturday weren't immediately clear, though the agency cited "continuity of care under conditions that meet our strict standards of care in ORR state licensed shelters, the Carrizo Springs Influx Care Facility or Emergency Intake Sites where beds have become available."

The unaccompanied migrant children began arriving at the Houston location, which is not being disclosed for security reasons, on April 2, a day after it opened.

Federal authorities, community and faith leaders worked together to prepare the 500-bed shelter that was operated by the National Association of Christian Churches.

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.

"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," U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said on April 1. "Every one of them had that frightening experience."

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee gives update on the 300 migrant girls who arrived in Houston on Friday night. Jackson Lee says the children will have access to medical care, food services and warm beds while they wait for a family member.

SEE ALSO: Congresswoman gives update on 300 migrant girls housed in Houston

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

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

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 have about 13,000 beds.

RELATED: More than 4,000 migrants, many kids, crowded into Texas facility

A tour revealed a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 migrants were crammed into a space intended for 250.