The Biden Administration shut down a migrant facility in Houston, Texas after the disaster relief non-profit running its operations was accused of providing inadequate living conditions.
The site, which was opened to help accommodate the influx of unaccompanied migrants arriving at the southern border, housed hundreds of girls aged 13-17.
HHS plans to relocate the nearly 500 girls to other nearby facilities, families, or sponsors.
Sources indicated that the warehouse suffered from overcrowding and extremely limited indoor and outdoor living space.
Cesar Espinoza, the executive director of migrant civil rights organization FIEL, commented during his visit that the facility was “filled just with cots, where the girls were not allowed to get up, unless it was to shower, or to use the restroom. Even their meals were delivered to their cots.”
“[The girls] were more treated like merchandise rather than treated as human beings, as people who just went through a very traumatic experience,” Espinosa said.
The National Association of Christian Churches (NACC) received a $4 million grant from the Biden administration to manage the warehouse operations, despite having no prior experience in sheltering undocumented migrants.
NACC spokespeople claim that the Biden administration pressured the organization to house the children. NACC’s founder and president Jose Ortega said that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra pleaded with him to accept the mission. Ortega has since blamed the site’s failure on insufficient funds from the government.
“I’m a humble pastor that was thrown into this mess without asking for it,” Ortega said. “We were not looking for a contract, we were not applying for a contract for us to make money — this was thrown on us.”
Espinoza also questioned why the administration didn’t select one of the many other Houston centers and organizations that were better prepared and equipped for such a contract.
“What was the process? Why was this center chosen?” Espinosa asked in comments to ABC News. “There’s many other spaces here in Houston that could have been chosen, that would have stepped up to the plate, who had the experience of running shelters or who have the experience of working with children in this space.”
The HHS and the White House have yet to explain why the NACC specifically was chosen to operate the facility.