HHS closing north Houston facility for unaccompanied migrant children

HOUSTON – The Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday all the migrant children at the North Houston facility run by the National Association Of Christian Churches will be immediately unified with sponsors or transferred to an appropriate ORR facility.

“We actually found out when we started seeing these buses arriving this morning,” said Pastor Jose Ortega of the National Association Of Christian Churches.

According to the department, almost 130 of the 450 girls on-site already have plans to be unified with a sponsor. While the department will continue working with interagency partners to unify the children with a sponsor.

HHS said the children being transferred are being moved to ensure continuity of care under conditions that meet our strict standards of care in ORR state-licensed shelters, the Carrizo Springs Influx Care Facility, or Emergency Intake Sites where beds have become available.

According to the department, the Houston facility and other emergency intake sites are intended for temporary use. The Houston facility was initially opened on April 1.

Pastor Ortega was critical of how things ended and the way in which the girls were rushed out.

“The girls don’t need to be put through this. These girls have been put through enough. You should have seen them crying,” said Ortega.

A spokesperson for Mayor Turner said the White House notified Turner Saturday about the closure since the children will be placed in other facilities or with family members.

Cesar Espinosa, the Executive Director of FIEL, released a statement following the closure:

“We welcome the statement that some of the girls are being reunited with their families immediately and that this center which to us was sub-par is closing. Unfortunately at this moment, we have more questions than answers. 1. Was the events that unfolded the night of April 16 a trigger to the closing of this center. 2. How many girls will be reunited with their family members immediately. 3. Where will these children be sent to next? Our mission remains the same. We want to continue to put emphasis on children being reunited with their families not suffering more in detention centers.”

Congressman Al Green also released a statement:

“I visited the facility (on) April the 8th. I went with the understanding that this was a temporary facility, with no intention of this being a permanent housing facility for the girls. I am glad that the girls are being placed with friends, family and sponsors. I hope they all can find someplace they can call home permanently. This is what the good Samaritan would want.”

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