Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demanded Wednesday that the Biden administration shut down a shelter holding illegal immigrant children in San Antonio after the state received reports of child abuse.
Mr. Abbott said he’s ordered state investigators to probe conditions at the facility after fielding complaints including sexual assault and a shortage of staff to properly run the facility.
He also said they’ve heard that children with the coronavirus are being mixed in with children who tested negative.
“The Biden administration opened the borders and failed to plan for the influx of unaccompanied children crossing the border, and now we are faced with our worst fears—allegations of child abuse and neglect,” Mr. Abbott said.
“I am calling on the Biden administration to close this facility, and I am directing the DPS and the Texas Rangers to immediately begin investigating these allegations,” he said.
The Freeman Coliseum has seen its number of children surge from 500 last week to 1,370 as of Monday, according to KSAT, a local news station.
The facility is one of several that the Health and Human Services Department has rushed to open to create new bed space and get children out of Border Patrol stations, where they are piled up by the thousands.
HHS said in a reply statement Thursday that it wouldn’t comment on specific allegations because of privacy concerns, but insisted it has “a zero tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior.”
The department said it “acts quickly to address any alleged violations of policy.”
The effort to open new beds is working to reduce the population held by the Border Patrol, which has dropped from nearly 5,800 on March 28 to 4,228 as of Tuesday.
But Mr. Abbott’s claims, if true, could expose cut corners as the Biden administration seeks to manage the surge.
“President Biden’s disastrous decisions caused this crisis, and his administration must act now to protect these children, secure the border, and end this crisis,” the governor said.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, demanded a federal inspector general also probed the abuse allegations at the facility.
“The fact that any child would experience abuse in the care of the U.S. government is despicable,” he said.
The children, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, are rushing the U.S. border in record numbers. They appear to be responding to a change in policy imposed by the Biden administration, which reversed a coronavirus pandemic health order that had allowed the government to expel anyone who crossed the border without permission.
The Biden administration has kept that order in place for many adults, but said it was cruel to apply it to children.