Texas is investigating sexual assault and child abuse allegations at a temporary migrant facility in San Antonio

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Michelle Mark
·4 min read
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greg abbott
In this Wednesday, March 17, 2021, file photo, Texas Gov Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference about migrant children detentions, in Dallas. Associated Press/LM Otero
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said the state's investigating child abuse allegations at a migrant facility.

  • Roughly 1,370 unaccompanied migrant children are being held in the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio.

  • Abbott said the allegations included child sexual assault and a lack of food.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that state officials were investigating allegations of child abuse and sexual assault at a shelter for migrant children in San Antonio, which is currently sheltering 1,370 minors.

Abbott said in a press conference that the state's Department of Family and Protective Services fielded three reports alleging abuse and neglect at the Freeman Coliseum - one of the temporary emergency shelters that federal officials set up to accommodate the influx of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in the US.

Abbott said there were four main components in the allegations: child sexual assault, a lack of staff to safely supervise the children, a lack of food for the children, and a failure to separate children with COVID-19 from those without it.

"This is a health and safety nightmare," Abbott said. "The Biden administration is now presiding over the abuse of children."

The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed to Insider it was investigating the allegations, but declined to provide further details.

Read more: The MAGA messaging on immigration is scaring the hell out of some conservatives as millions of newly naturalized citizens will soon be joining the American electorate

The federal Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for caring for migrant children in government custody, declined to provide Insider with details on the allegations. The department said in a statement that its Office of Refugee Resettlement "has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behavior at all [unaccompanied child] care provider facilities and acts quickly to address any alleged violations of policy.

Texas County Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, a Democrat, criticized Abbott's characterization of the facility, noting that he made his comments before he toured the Freeman Coliseum facility. Clay-Flores told the Associated Press she had been inside the facility both as an elected official and a volunteer, and said children were fed three meals and two snacks per day, and that children positive for COVID-19 were kept separate from the others.

"I wish the governor had done his tour before the press conference when he politicized children," she said.

A record number of unaccompanied children has far outstripped the government's shelter capacity

us-mexico border migrants
A group of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador arrives at a bus terminal in the U.S. after crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico aboard, in Texas, United States on April 7, 2021. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The news comes amid a major influx of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border - many of them families or unaccompanied children who journeyed to the US from Central America, seeking asylum.

New data released Thursday showed that border officials apprehended 172,000 people at the US-Mexico border in March - the highest monthly total since 2000 - and expelled roughly 104,000 of them.

Of those 172,000 apprehensions, nearly 19,000 were unaccompanied minors - a record number that has dwarfed the federal government's existing shelter capacity and prompted officials to seek out new spaces, including in such facilities as the Freeman Coliseum, convention centers, and even military bases.

Biden has so far kept the Trump administration's emergency Title 42 policy of expelling most migrants who cross the border illegally, citing public health risks. But he has adapted it to allow children to enter the US and request humanitarian protection, and the administration has acknowledged that some migrant families have also been admitted.

In Abbott's press conference on Wednesday, he blamed the Biden administration's immigration policies for the complaints and demanded the facility at Freeman Coliseum be shuttered.

"These problems are a byproduct of President Biden's open border policies, and the lack of planning for the fallout from those disastrous policies," he said.

Read the original article on Insider