Psaki: ’No Basis’ to Shut Down Migrant Child Holding Facility Despite Abuse Allegations

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 22, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said there is “no basis” for Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s calls to shut down a temporary shelter for migrant children where he says children are being sexually assaulted.

In response to a question about Abbott’s allegations of abuse at the shelter at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Psaki indicated that the administration would investigate the claims but would not shut down the facility. 

“Well first we take safety and the well-being of children in our care very seriously, hence our earlier conversation about the funding spent to keep them safe during the pandemic,” she said. “His claims will be looked into and investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services.”

“Currently we have no basis for his call to shut down the San Antonio Freeman Coliseum as an intake site but we will of course — we take these allegations seriously and they will be investigated.”

Asked if that position is consistent with her previous claims that the administration is working to make processing more efficient and effective “in a humane way that keeps these kids as safe as we possibly can,” she responded only that the administration is looking into the allegations and taking them “very seriously.”

Psaki’s comments come two days after Abbott accused the administration of “presiding over the abuse of children” in a press conference on Wednesday. 

“To end this abuse, the Biden administration must shut down this facility and the children in this facility should be moved to other facilities where the federal government has enough space, personnel and resources to ensure their safety,” Abbott said. 

Abbott said officials at Texas Health and Human Services and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services have received “very credible allegations” that children at the facility are being sexually assaulted and that there is inadequate staffing to safely supervise children at the facility premises. Other allegations include that some children are not eating throughout the day and that facility workers aren’t separating COVID-19 positive children from others, the governor said.

“These problems are a byproduct of President (Joe) Biden’s open-border policies and the lack of planning at the fallout of those disastrous policies,” Abbott said.

The governor did not say who submitted the claims to state agencies, but urged the Biden administration to move the children to other “federally-run facilities.”

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