Biden Admin Closes Houston Migrant Facility for Girls Due to Poor Conditions (Dreamstime)
By Jim Thomas | Monday, 19 April 2021 07:00 PM
The Biden administration ‘boarded up’ a Houston facility for migrant children, including hundreds of young girls, following allegations that the group running it failed to provide adequate living conditions, reported ABC News.
According to the report, sources familiar with the facility's operation said the girls housed there, aged 13-17, were at times instructed to use plastic bags for toilets because there were not enough staff members to accompany them to restrooms.
Girls spent most of the day on makeshift cots surrounded by cardboard boxes for privacy, according to the report.
The warehouse lacked outdoor space and suffered from internal overpopulation. The lack of space also ran afoul of COVID related social distancing measures, ABC sources said.
A spokesperson for the nonprofit would neither confirm nor deny these allegations to ABC News.
The warehouse was quickly opened earlier this month by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in response to the wave of migrants who continue to assail the US southern border.
A Houston-based nonprofit, the National Association of Christian Churches (NACC), an organization with roots in disaster relief, was awarded a $4 million contract to operate the warehouse despite having no record of caring for unaccompanied migrants.
Neither the White House nor HHS would say how NACC was selected despite having no prior experience housing migrant children or running a migrant holding center, reported ABC News.
Cesar Espinoza, the executive director of migrant civil rights organization FIEL, toured the facility in recent weeks as part of his work to ensure humane treatment for migrants, and said he saw "desperation" in the girls' faces that was "unbearable and incredible."
Espinoza said the warehouse space was "filled just with cots, where the girls were not allowed to get up, unless it was to shower, or to use the restroom. Even their meals were delivered to their cots."
"[The girls] were more treated like merchandise rather than treated as human beings, as people who just went through a very traumatic experience," Espinosa said. "I would not allow my 15-year-old sister to go and volunteer in a place like this because I don't know what she's going to see."
A White House spokesperson told ABC News that the site was closed because it "did not meet the Biden administration's very high standard for child welfare." "The children being transferred are being moved to ensure continuity of care under conditions that meet our strict standards of care," an HHS spokesperson told ABC News.
Dean Hoover, a spokesperson for NACC, in a statement to ABC News on Sunday, placed blame on the Biden administration.
"NACC officials were personally requested by HHS Secretary [Xavier] Becerra and President Biden to open the doors of their large Houston facility to refugee children on an emergency basis," Hoover said. "It is deeply hurtful and unfair to the folks at NACC that anyone would now think of criticizing them when all they were trying to do is be good Samaritans and help the HHS help these children."
Jose Ortega, NACC's founder and president said in recent interviews with the Houston Chronicle, “I'm a humble pastor that was thrown into this mess without asking for it.
"We were not looking for a contract, we were not applying for a contract for us to make money — this was thrown on us." Ortega added that condition of the NACC’s facility was related to the government’s failure to timely provide funds, reported ABC news.