Texas Launches Probe Into Child Abuse Allegations at Migrant Facility

Texas Launches Probe Into Child Abuse Allegations at Migrant Facility
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, on May 18, 2020. (Lynda M. Gonzalez/The Dallas Morning News Pool)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Two Texas agencies received tips alleging that children have been sexually assaulted and neglected at a federal outflow migrant facility in San Antonio, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday, adding that he has ordered an investigation into the matter and called on the Biden administration to shut down the facility.

The separate complaints came to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services about the Freeman Coliseum, where some unaccompanied minors—children who crossed the southern border illegally without an adult—are currently being held, Abbott told reporters at a conference held in front of the site.

“Earlier today, the Texas Health and Human Services commission and Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, separately received tips that alleged child abuse and neglect at the San Antonio migrant facility,” Abbott said. “These products are a bi-product of President Biden’s policies.”

The allegations comprise four main complaints that allege child sexual assault, children not eating throughout the day, not enough staff on hand to supervise the children, and children with COVID-19 are not being physically separated from those who don’t have the virus. It is unclear how many children were allegedly abused or adversely affected by neglect.

Abbott called the situation at the facility a “health and safety nightmare,” and called on the administration to move the children away to safer facilities and shut down the facility. “Biden’s open border policy caused this crisis,” Abbott said on Twitter.

In the meantime, Abbott said he is directing the Texas Rangers and the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate the allegations.

According to KSAT-TV, the facility as of April 5 was holding more than 1,300 children. It reportedly has a capacity of 2,100 beds.

A White House spokesperson said in a statement to news outlets, “The Biden Administration takes the safety and well-being of children in its care very seriously. Currently we see no basis for Governor Abbott’s call to shut down the San Antonio Freeman Coliseum as an intake site, however, his claims will be looked into and investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services.”

Three new overflow facilities for unaccompanied minors were announced in the past week amid a surge in illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico into the United States. They are the Delphi Emergency Intake Site (EIS) in Donna, the Dimmit EIS in Carrizo Springs, and the Pecos EIS in Pecos.

While the facilities are not intended to hold children for longer than three days, the high influx of unaccompanied minors has left officers with no choice.

Since taking office, Biden has reversed a number of border policies from the Trump administration, including pausing border wall construction and announcing a halt to the “Remain in Mexico” policy—which required asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while awaiting immigration proceedings.

The administration also stopped expelling from the country unaccompanied minors. Adults and family units are generally still being expelled from the United States.

President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials have urged migrants to refrain from illegally crossing the border into the United States, saying that the U.S. borders remain closed. The president characterized the border surge as something that “happens every year,” due to multiple external factors including natural disasters, lack of food, and gang violence. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month that, “The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system,” referring to the situation at the southern border.

Critics, including Republicans, have said that the border crisis was largely exacerbated by Biden’s immigration policies that they say have recreated an incentive for people to enter the United States.

The number of illegal alien arrests from October 2020 to the end of February 2021 was 396,958, representing a more than 96 percent increase from the year-earlier period, according to CBP data. In February alone, the CBP apprehended 100,441 aliens who crossed the southern border illegally.
This article has been updated to include a new statement from the White House.