HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Houston is on a short list of places that may be getting more shelters for migrant children. The other cities are Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Phoenix, Arizona and Atlanta.
On Tuesday, Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo confirmed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contacted her office.
In a statement, Hidalgo said:
"We have been contacted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding plans to assess properties in Harris County for the housing of unaccompanied minors until they are united with a parent, relative, or other appropriate sponsor. We are very concerned for the welfare of these migrant children and are in the initial phases of assessing the notice. Any action will be guided by the principle that every child must be treated with fairness and respect, and that families belong together."
The Office of Refugee Resettlement in HHS says the plans are in the very early stages. They add the shelters would specifically be for unaccompanied minors.
Just last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 9,000 unaccompanied minors where detained at the southwest border.
Andrea Guttin, Legal Director for the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative says although there are minors that are truly unaccompanied, the need for more shelters likely has to do with family separations.
"Minors are routinely separated from grandparents, aunts and uncles older siblings with which they enter. And, so,that kind of creates a need to house those children once they're separated from the adults," she told FOX 26.
She adds going through the Office of Refugee Resettlement is better than other detention centers, but there’s no easy answer. However, migrant children and adults should be access to legal services.
"The fact that you already have that kind of mess on your hands, why would you want to continue moving forward with this?" asked Harris County Comissioner Adrian Garcia referring to families still separated as a result of the Trump Administration's zero tolerance policy in 2018.
"My office has not been contacted," he added. "I've not been spoken to and, quite honestly, I can't see myself supporting anything that would be in my precinct if I would be asked."
Guttin says there already nine shelters in the Houston area for migrant children including the Southwest Key facility "Casa Sunzal" that opened last month.