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Freeman Coliseum Migrant Children Shelter Expected To Cease Operation At The End Of May

The grounds of Bexar County's Freeman Coliseum
Bexar County/Courtesy Photo
The grounds of Bexar County's Freeman Coliseum

The use of Bexar County’s Freeman Coliseum Expo Hall as an emergency migrant shelter is not expected to continue after the end of the month, the Federal Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed.

The coliseum’s expo hall has been used to house up to 2,400 migrant children who have surrendered themselves to — or were found by — border patrol agents since late March. HHS approached the county to use the site in mid-March to temporarily hold migrant children while members or sponsors in the U.S. are located.

Earlier this week, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff speculated the contract would not continue.

“They have not asked to extend, and it expires at the end of May so we expect them to be through with the job that they’re doing here by the end of May,” he said.

On Wednesday, a statement from HHS confirmed the department doesn’t expect to extend the lease.

“The San Antonio EIS lease for space expires May 30, 2021, and we do not anticipate extending. (The Office of Refugee Resettlement) is working to unify the teens at the Freeman Coliseum EIS with their sponsors as quickly and safely as possible,” the statement said.

About 1,000 children are in the shelter currently. More than 1,000 have already been reunited with family and sponsors in the U.S. The shelter only accommodates boys between the ages of 13 and 17 who are mostly from the countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

HHS said the unification of minors in the site is increasing daily and that the verification for many children is ongoing.

“We anticipate that a majority of teens will be unified with their sponsors before the end of May. If, however, there are teens who have not been unified with a sponsor when it is time to close, they will be relocated to another facility in the ORR network,” the statement continued.

According to HHS data, there are 20,500 children in the care of the ORR as of this week. Aside from sponsors and family, several children have aged out of the system while in the shelter.

Shortly after the site opened, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made unproven claims at a press conference that children at Freeman Coliseum were sexually assaulted. The source of the claims came from three anonymous complaints made to state agencies; however, no confirmation was ever found. The actual written claims did not directly mention sexual assault.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff later said the claims were false.

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