Last Saturday, the Biden administration abruptly closed a temporary facility housing nearly 500 unaccompanied illegal immigrant girls in Houston, Texas, a move allegedly due to the “unbearable” conditions of the facility.
The facility is an emergency shelter of the National Association of Christian Churches (NACC), a nonprofit organization focused on disaster services. It’s actually in a warehouse in northern Houston, near the George Bush International Airport. From April 1, NACC opened the shelter as a temporary facility to house unaccompanied girls.
Immigrant advocates had raised concern about the shelter’s conditions and questioned that NACC has no prior experience dealing with unaccompanied children. According to the Houston Chronicle, the night before the closing, an adult staffer from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) working at the shelter suddenly died.
“[The girls] were more treated like merchandise rather than treated as human beings,” Cesar Espinoza, the executive director of migrant civil rights organization FIEL, told ABC News.
Espinoza toured the facility a week after it was opened. He said the shelter was “filled just with cots.” The girls were not allowed to get up unless it was for a shower or using the restroom. There was no enough dining space, and their meals were brought to their cots. The “desperation” in the girls’ faces was “unbearable and incredible.”
ABC reported that at times the girls, from 13 to 17, were asked to use plastic bags for a toilet because there were not enough staff to accompany them to restrooms.
NACC later explained that it only happened once—when it was after lights out.
In a statement to The Epoch Times, the HHS said that the NACC Houston emergency intake site was intended to use as a temporary measure, and the closing was to “ensure continuity of care under conditions that meet our strict standards.”
HHS continued that about 130 of the 450 girls on-site “already have plans to be unified with a sponsor,” the rest were moved to the Carrizo Springs Influx Care Facility or emergency intake sites where beds “have become available.”
HHS didn’t respond to other questions from The Epoch Times.
Jose Ortega, founder and president of NACC, claimed to the Houston Chronicle that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra personally “begged” him to take the migrant children and sign the $4 million contract.
“I’m a pastor. 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 said.
The Epoch Times has reached out to NACC for comments.
Biden administration is spending roughly $60 million a week to shelter illegal immigrant children who cross into the United States from Mexico.
More than 18,600 unaccompanied children were apprehended after crossing the border in March. Nearly 18,800 are being housed in HHS facilities.
Over the weekend, President Joe Biden for the first time described the recent surge of illegal immigrants along the southern border as a crisis, a phrase his administration had avoided using.
Jack Phillips and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.