State legislators tour government shelter for migrant teens

DHHS facility in Carrizo Springs currently holds 225 teens

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter, Luis Cienfuegos - Photojournalist

CARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas - Some state lawmakers on Tuesday toured a government shelter in Carrizo Springs for unaccompanied migrant teens.

Unlike the overcrowded U.S. Border Patrol facilities shown in a recent report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, the Carrizo Springs shelter is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The facility is used to house unaccompanied teens, ages 13-17, while the government looks for a sponsor for them in the United States. 

A DHHS spokesman said there are currently 225 teens at the facility, which is run by the nonprofit organization BCFS Health and Human Services' Emergency Management Division.

Democratic state Reps. Diego Bernal and Leo Pacheco, of San Antonio, toured the facility. Although they had concerns about the facility, neither Bernal nor Pacheco described any conditions approaching those seen in the Office of Inspector General report for the Border Patrol facilities.

Bernal and Pacheco are critical of how the government is handling the migrant teens.

"It may not be like Tornillo and other Border Patrol areas that are worse," Pacheco said. "Regardless, if this is Disneyland, they still can't leave anywhere. It's still an incarceration facility."

"The environment itself, it shouldn't last this long," Bernal said. "They can do it in a much shorter period of time. There are still kids being separated from close family members. Like, you could have a 19-year-old brother and a 10-year-old sister that will be separated. There's a better way to do this."

A DHHS spokesman said the average length of a stay in its network of shelters is 45 days.

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