HHS says it has 'zero-tolerance' for abuse amid allegations at Texas facility

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it has a “zero-tolerance” policy for any kind of abuse or harassment of child migrants, amid allegations of child abuse at a facility in San Antonio, Texas.

“HHS takes its humanitarian mission seriously and while unaccompanied migrant children are in our care under the law, we strive to provide a safe space while they go through immigration proceedings,” the agency said in a statement. “HHS has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behavior at all UC care provider facilities.”

REPUBLICANS DEMAND ANSWERS ON ABUSE ALLEGATIONS AT TEXAS CHILD MIGRANT FACILITY

Texas welfare officials said Wednesday they received three reports of abuse and neglect at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. The site holds more than 1,300 migrant children — one of a number of sites set up to handle a surge in migrants in recent months.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he believed the allegations came from someone inside the facility and that they include sexual abuse, insufficient staffing, children not eating and COVID-positive migrants not being separated. 

Abbott called on the Biden administration to shut the site.

“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,” he said. 

MORE THAN 1,300 MIGRANTS CHILDREN BEING HELD AT COLISEUM WHERE SEXUAL ABUSE IS ALLEGED

Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz expressed outrage at the allegations and called for them to be investigated.

“The allegations of horrific abuse of children in the custody of the Biden administration are tragic,” Cruz said in a statement to Fox News on Thursday. “We need to immediately get to the bottom of what is happening to these children and President Biden needs to step up and address the driving factor behind this — his crisis at the southern border.”

In its statement, first reported by The Associated Press, HHS said it “will continue investigating any incidents affecting children’s health, well-being and safety and will take the proper measures including initiating employee disciplinary action, termination, and reporting to appropriate investigative entities, such as law enforcement agencies and relevant licensing bodies.”

HHS’ policy is for care providers to report the allegations to appropriate agencies, including the FBI if necessary, suspend any employee from duties related to the care of children, and take action to protect children in the program — while providing follow-up services and notifying parents and guardians.

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There are currently more than 16,000 unaccompanied children in HHS care and more than 4,000 in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. 

On Thursday, CBP announced there had been 172,000 migrant encounters in March. That included 18,890 unaccompanied children — a 100% increase from the already high numbers encountered in February, and the highest monthly number recorded.

Fox News’ Griff Jenkins contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.

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