HOUSTON – Sitting anonymously along the feeder road at I-10 near Beltway 8, a three story building that was once a hospital now houses over 200 children that are unaccompanied immigrants. In most cases, these young people were apprehended at the Mexican border, and detained by U.S. authorities until their disposition. This could be sending them back to their own country, or finding adult sponsors in the U.S.
On Monday, August 20, Congressman Gene Green, accompanied by State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Ana Hernandez, made an inspection tour of the facility. Green told this newspaper that he had a difficult time getting access, even though the federal government is paying for the program that supervises the children. In an earlier foray, Garcia and Hernandez had been refused admission, and blocked by armed guards from entry, as reported in this newspaper. Green said that the Southwest Key Program group, that runs the shelter, required two weeks notice and vetted those who wanted to go on the tour.
All three legislators wanted to see the facility and talked with the children, because the building is in their district, and they are ultimately responsible for its financing.
Green explained to this newspaper that the program is administered by the U. S. HHS, or Housing and Human Services administration, and South west Key and other groups contract with the government to care for the children until their situation can be resolved.
Green said that presently there are 206 children in the facility, boys and girls ages 12 to 16. He said they live in dormitories, one gender per floor, and occupy their time with classroom work, recreation, and relaxation. Green said that he did not observe any conditions that alarmed him, and the children seemed well taken care of. In addition to recreation on the property, the kids are also taken to a nearby county park named Gene Green Park. This was dedicated in that name by the County Commissioner at that time, Sylvia Garcia. They also have a soccer field, and basketball court on the property, he said. Green said that most of the children he spoke with said they came from Central American countries, namely Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Only a few were from Mexico or other countries.
Asked what he would change or improve, Green indicated the facility was acceptable as is, but the real problem was federal policy that was separating children from their parents at the border, or like these children at the North Shore shelter, incarcerating them until their cases can be heard by a federal agency in charge of their future.