#minorsextrafficking | About 2,400 migrant children coming to Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio



Bexar County officials reached a 60-day agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to house up to 2,400 unaccompanied migrant children at Freeman Coliseum.

The children, awaiting transfer from detention facilities along the border, are expected to arrive by bus some time next week.

The county had been talking to HHS for nearly two weeks to make sure the coliseum expo halls and recreation rooms at Freeman would be “better than any other migration site in the United States,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said at a news conference Friday.

The children will sleep on cots with bedding; get three meals and two snacks daily; use portable showers and toilets; and have indoor and outdoor recreation areas, as well as Wi-Fi access and televisions, he said.

“They will not be sleeping on any floor,” Wolff said, addressing concerns raised by human rights advocates.

The goal is to help place as many children as possible with parents or other family members living in the United States, possibly within a week, or in a local licensed care facility.

“These children would not be deported back to their home country. They would get with their family or they will go to one of the licensed care facilities that we have,” Wolff said, describing the county’s actions as a response to a “humanitarian crisis” that has become politicized.

“We know the border is overloaded without a proper place for the children to be housed,” he said. “You can blame Trump, you can blame Biden; you can blame whoever you want to blame. But these are children, and a good, solid strong community reaches out to help people like that.”

Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores, speaking in English and Spanish, said opening the doors of the county-owned coliseum is one that’s in character for San Antonio — a “hospitable town” whose residents are “truly friendly Texans.”

“If this helps to alleviate overcrowding the border, then who are we to tell children, ‘No, you are not welcome,’” she said. “We are being good Texans and good neighbors in opening the doors to children who have not traveled on a leisurely trip, but who have fought to overcome sex trafficking, abuse, poverty, gang violence.”

Officials said the county will charge the federal agency standard rental rates, in the thousands of dollars per day, for use of two expo halls and seven entertainment rooms totaling at least 250,000 square feet.

“So as they’re using assets that we’re helping them with and have purchased in advance, there will be reimbursements for them,” said Derrick Howard, the coliseum’s longtime executive director.

Security on the perimeter will be provided by Federal Protection Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security that protects federal buildings, with private security working inside the building.

“They’re already out on site and prepared to provide the security that we need to make sure that the kids are in a safe environment,” Wolff said, adding that DHS has “done a great assessment of the site and have figured out how they will handle the children.”

The county Fire Marshal’s Office will provide 24-hour fire watch service.

The children will have legal representation through the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

There may be opportunities for local groups and residents to donate items, but HHS would oversee that process.

Wolff said the children will be tested for COVID-19 at the border. At Freeman, they’ll be required to wear masks and be retested every five days. A separate area will be used to isolate any children who test positive.

The infection rate among the children has run from 4 percent to 9 percent — lower than some have speculated, he said. He did not foresee the children posing any threat to local hospital capacity since most young people recover from the virus without being hospitalized.

“There’s been a lot of bad rumors out there, how many of these kids have it,” he said.

HHS is responsible for on-site medical and mental health services and is in conversation with Christus Santa Rosa Health System for off-site medical services, according to the county.

On Thursday, county leaders talked to officials of the federal agency to get assurances that the young people would be treated right.

“HHS is responsible to run the facility. And I believe they’re going to do a good job,” Wolff said.


shuddleston@express-news.net



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