SAN ANTONIO – (Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Thursday, April 8. Click here for the latest coverage of this story from KSAT.com.)
Gov. Greg Abbott called on the federal government to shut down a facility for migrant children at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio after complaints were received Wednesday morning of abuse and understaffing.
Abbott said the complaints are “credible” and were filed with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. He declined to provide details about the tipster, but said it was from at least one or more people who have been at the facility.
The allegations include sexual assault, understaffing, not getting enough food, and COVID-positive children who are not isolated from others.
The governor said the Texas Rangers would immediately begin investigating the cases. It is unclear how many children would have been abused.
“This facility is a health and safety nightmare,” said Abbott. “The Biden administration must close this facility immediately.”
“The Biden administration opened the borders and had no plans for the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border, and now we face our worst fears – allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Abbott said. “I call on the Biden administration to shut down this facility, and I order the DPS and the Texas Rangers to immediately investigate these allegations. President Biden’s disastrous decisions have sparked this crisis, and his government must act now to protect these children, secure the border and end this crisis. “
The United States Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that it could not comment on specific cases, but “has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior.”
In a statement, a DFPS spokeswoman confirmed that the agency has received the allegations.
The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) today received three separate reports of abuse and neglect at the Freeman Coliseum, which currently houses unaccompanied minors. Because this facility is not licensed by the state, we do not have the jurisdiction to investigate, but the information we have received has been shared with DPS, ”the statement said.
Bexar County PCT. 1 Commissioner Rebecca Clay-Flores, who has visited the facility many times, said the allegations are political in nature and amount to “fake news”.
“They get three meals a day plus two snacks,” she said. “The conditions are hygienic and good.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg released a statement saying, “These allegations about the federal operation are troubling if they are true, and a thorough investigation is warranted.”
US Senator John Cornyn, who has visited four similar migrant facilities in Texas, called for a federal investigation into the case.
“Unaccompanied children arriving at our border have already endured dangerous conditions at home and an insidious journey to get here,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The fact that a child would be abused in the care of the US government is despicable. The HHS Inspector General must fully investigate these allegations and the treatment of children in this facility. “
The press conference took place outside the Freeman Coliseum, housing 1,370 boys ages 13-17 as an emergency shelter for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The Expo Center, located next to the AT&T Center, where the San Antonio Spurs play, has an internal potential capacity of 2,100 beds and an external capacity of 300 medical beds.
Upon arrival, the children will receive medical examinations and any follow-up care necessary for injuries or illnesses they had upon arrival, officials previously said.
Following Abbott’s announcement, Ike Hajinazrian, a regional White House spokesman, released the following statement in response to the allegations:
“Biden’s administration takes the safety and welfare of the children under its care very seriously. Currently, we see no reason for Governor Abbott’s call to close the San Antonio Freeman Coliseum as a shooting location, but his claims will be investigated and investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services. “
Abbott has been very critical of the way the Biden government is handling the influx of migrants along the US-Mexico border, claiming that the government is refusing to secure the border, which he says has led to a surge in illegal border crossings. . View the data here.
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