Houston (CBS HOUSTON) — Federal officials are considering the use of a vacant Houston middle school to house illegal immigrant children caught crossing the U.S. border.
Sheleah Reed, of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that federal officials plan to tour the vacant Terrell Middle School as a potential location to house the recent influx in unaccompanied alien children detained by border protection authorities.
“In a large city like Houston, everyone’s saying, ‘If there needs to be a place to house these students, what facilities are available?'” Reed told the Chronicle. “Tomorrow’s tour is not necessarily a show and tell. It’s a working tour. Here’s a facility we have. Here’s what it looks like.”
Border Patrol agents and other federal officials have been scrambling to locate housing for the estimated 52,000 apprehensions of unaccompanied children made since Oct. 1 of last year. The influx of immigrants has clogged up the federal detention network and has left unaccompanied children stranded in the Office of Refugee Resettlement centers long after the legal 72-hour transfer limit. Terrell Middle School, which was closed in 2011 and is now used for storage, could be used as one such detainee location.
“I don’t think it would take a lot to get it in place,” said Reed. “But I think that’s what tomorrow’s tour is for.”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson is among several community leaders who have been in contact with HISD officials regarding the potential transfer of immigrant children to the Houston middle school, according to Reed.
The ORR agency under Health and Human Services has been unable to detain the increasing amount of immigrants in its more than 90 facilities. Many of the children are already sleeping on concrete floors and benches in overcrowded detention facilities in California, Texas and Oklahoma – but are now looking for more space across the country.