GALVESTON — A group of unaccompanied children at the center of the growing immigration crisis in Texas have apparently made their way to Galveston.
According to The Daily News media partner Houston television station KHOU, a group 50 unaccompanied immigrant children were brought to facilities operated by the Children’s Center. The Galveston-based organization provides, among other services, emergency housing to unaccompanied children.
According to KHOU, 30 of the children were brought to a Children’s Center facility in Oyster Creek, while the other 20 were brought to a facility in Galveston.
Children’s Center President and CEO James “Terry” Keel said Thursday evening that he could not confirm any children brought to Galveston were indeed from South Texas, though the television station cited him as the source of the information.
“I wouldn’t know,” Keel said. “We do get these children, we do serve these children, but I would not know if these were the children being spotlighted or not.”
Keel told The Daily News that the Children’s Center had participated in a program to act as emergency housing for unaccompanied minors for at least eight years.
“We do serve them. We have served them for years in the community,” Keel said.
In 2012, The Daily News reported that the Children Center’s Multicultural Institute receives about $3 million a year through federal grants to run a program for unaccompanied minors.
The program is meant to provide the children food, shelter, clothing, health care and education until they become legal, are deported or turn 18 years old.
However, the program has been criticized before for mismanagement of both funds and the people it was taking care of.
In 2009, an audit of the center revealed it had misspent about $630,000 from funds meant for unaccompanied minors. The center also faced criticism that it allowed single, adult men to stay in the same facility as families.
Keel referred questions about the origins and identities of the Children Center’s current clients to federal officials. He did not return a phone call seeking to clarify the information he confirmed with KHOU.
Phone messages and emails left with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement were not immediately returned.
Houston became the epicenter of the immigration issue Thursday when many of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from South Texas arrived at George Bush International Airport en route to be housed at sites in Texas and across the nation.
Other news reports Thursday said some of the children had been brought to facilities in Dallas County.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended in the Lower Rio Grande Valley since October. Three-fourths of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Some of the children said they are fleeing pervasive gang violence and crushing poverty.