© 2023 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Around 500 Unaccompanied Migrant Children To Arrive At Freeman Coliseum In Bexar County Monday Night

 The Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall
Bexar County
The Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall

Bexar County’s Freeman Coliseum Exposition Hall is expecting up to 500 migrant children to begin arriving Monday night.

On Friday, officials with Bexar County and the Department of Health and Human Services signed an agreement to house up to 2,400 migrant children. They are all boys between the ages of 13 and 17. Most are from Central America and countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Monday’s arrivals are first of many who will be sheltered here temporarily over the next 60 days. Each child is only expected to be there about a week.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said he was unsure of the exact number of how many children will arrive and it’s unclear if the shelter will see it maxed out at 2,400 people.

“Whether we’ll reach that many at any one time, I don’t know that, I just know that we’re getting the first ones coming in and that’s the max that we can handle,” he said.

Since the agreement was signed — in which HHS will pay Bexar County the day rate for using the Freeman grounds as an Emergency Intake Shelter — preparations have been underway to set-up the expo hall by HHS, Bexar County and volunteer groups like Catholic Charities.

“There’s about 2,000 cots we saw in there today. Catholic Charities was sorting off the clothes that are going to be there. Whether they’re jeans, shirts, or shoes or slippers, as well as the bedding for the cots, pillows along with blankets,” said Wolff.

The shelter will have two separate areas for children who are negative and positive for the coronavirus. About 2,100 beds will be available for those who are negative.

“They’re tested before they come, if they’re negative they go into the large facility. There’s a separate facility that can handle up to 300 and that’s separated between those that are asymptomatic COVID and those that have symptoms,” Wolff said.

The children will be tested for COVID-19 every three days while at Freeman.

The grounds also contain the AT&T Center which will not be affected by the use of the expo hall.

“There’s a street in front of the expo center where some of the cars going to the AT&T Center might drive by but we have fencing there to segment it there in a way,” Wolff said. “The Spurs game will be able to go on, and there won't be any problem with the access to the Spurs games.”

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), a division of HHS, on Monday said it has more than 13,000 children in its care right now. In a news release, ORR said that while it had built up capacity for 13,500 beds, additional emergency support was needed — one of those support sites is Freeman.

“To support this effort, HHS with the support of FEMA is establishing Emergency Intake Sites to provide ORR with needed capacity to accept children from CBP into its care where they can be safely processed, cared for and either released to a sponsor or transferred to an appropriate ORR shelter for longer-term care. The Emergency Intake Site is intended for use as a temporary measure,” the statement said.

Often times the children have family members in the United States and they are contacted after arriving at the emergency intake sites. If a family member is unable to be located, the children are then placed into the care of state-licensed families like St. Peter and St. Joseph’s Children’s Home.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules