SAN ANTONIO – (Editor’s note: This story was updated on Thursday, April 8. Click here for the latest reporting on this story from KSAT.com.)
Government Greg Abbott called on the federal government to close a facility that houses migrant children at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio after complaints of abuse and understaffing were received Wednesday morning.
Abbott said the complaints are “credible”
The allegations include sexual assault, understaffing, not being fed enough food and COVID-positive children not being isolated from others.
The governor said the Texas Rangers would immediately begin investigating the cases. It is unclear how many children were allegedly abused.
“This facility is a health and safety nightmare,” Abbott said. “The Biden Administration must close this facility immediately.”
“The Biden administration opened its borders and did not plan the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border, and now we face our worst fears – allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Abbott said. “I urge the Biden administration to close this facility, and I ask the DPS and Texas Rangers to investigate these allegations immediately. President Biden’s disastrous decisions caused this crisis, and his administration must act now to protect these children, secure the border, and end this crisis. ”
The U.S. 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, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior.”
In a statement, a DFPS spokeswoman confirmed that the agency received the allegations.
The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) today received three separate reports of allegations of abuse and neglect at the Freeman Coliseum, which currently houses unaccompanied minors. As this facility is not licensed by the state, we do not have jurisdiction to investigate, but the information we received has been shared with DPS, ”the statement said.
Bexar County Pct. 1 Commissioner Rebecca Clay-Flores, who has visited the facility frequently, said the allegations were of a political nature and amounted to “fake news.”
“They are fed three meals a day plus two snacks,” she said. “Conditions are hygienic and good.”
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued a statement saying, “These allegations of federal surgery are disturbing if they are true, and a thorough investigation is warranted.”
U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who has toured four similar immigrant 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 a treacherous journey to get here,” Cornyn said in a statement. “The fact that every child would experience abuse in the care of the US government is despicable. The HHS inspector must fully investigate these allegations and the treatment of children at this facility. ”
The news conference took place outside the Freeman Coliseum, where 1,370 boys ages 13-17 are being housed as a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Emergency Intake Site.
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 screening and any follow-up necessary for injuries or illnesses they had when they arrived, officials have previously said.
Following Abbott’s announcement, Ike Hajinazrian, a White House regional spokeswoman, released the following statement following the allegations:
“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 close the San Antonio Freeman Coliseum as an intake site, but his claim will be investigated and investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services. ”
Abbott has been very critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the influx of migrants along the US-Mexico border, claiming that the administration is refusing to secure the border, which he said has led to a sharp rise in illegal border crossings. See the data here.
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