- A 15-year-old migrant boy reportedly left a Brownsville, Texas, children’s shelter and is missing.
- The Casa Padre shelter has attracted nationwide attention under the Trump administration’s border crackdown, and houses nearly 1,500 boys.
- The shelter’s spokesman said that staff cannot legally force children to stay.
- The missing 15-year-old boy reportedly arrived in the US unaccompanied and was not separated from his parents by immigration authorities.
A 15-year-old boy has reportedly gone missing after leaving a children’s shelter for migrants in Brownsville, Texas.
He walked away from the shelter on Saturday afternoon, prompting officials at the Casa Padre shelter to call authorities, a spokesman for the shelter told media.
The shelter, run by the nonprofit Southwest Key Programs, has received nationwide attention under the Trump administration’s recently halted practice of separating families that crossed the US-Mexico border illegally.
Casa Padre is the largest migrant children’s shelter in the country, and houses nearly 1,500 boys who either arrived in the US unaccompanied or were separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border under the “zero tolerance” policy.
Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller told The New York Times that it couldn’t legally force children to stay in the facility if they sought to leave – and children have left the 27 shelters Southwest Key runs “from time to time.”
“We are not a detention center,” Eller said in a statement. “We talk to them and try to get them to stay. If they leave the property, we call law enforcement.”
Government photos of the shelter, which is a former Walmart, went viral last weekend after a handful of reporters were allowed to tour the facility. The media described dismal conditions including cramped sleeping quarters and barcodes children must wear on their wrists to be scanned during mealtimes.
Migrant children in the shelters are in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department, generally until they’re placed with adult relatives already living in the US.
HHS did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The boy had been unaccompanied when he arrived in the US and was not separated from his family by immigration authorities, one source familiar with the situation told CNN.
Authorities had been in touch with a man in Dallas who claimed to be the boy’s father, the source said, but when they discovered the man may not actually have been the boy’s biological father and were attempting to determine his relationship to the boy, the teenager left the facility.
The man claiming to be the father told authorities that he received a phone call Sunday afternoon from the boy, who said he had crossed the Rio Grande river and was in Mexico and attempting to travel back to Honduras.
“I can tell you he’s alive,” the source told CNN.
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