NGO Struggles to Open Facility Doors in Rural Texas Town
The massive influx of unaccompanied minors has placed a huge burden on American taxpayers, who have unknowingly and unwillingly aided criminal organizations in the trafficking of these children. Part1
By: Sheena Rodriguez | January 16, 2023
Since the Biden Administration stepped into office, more than 325,000 unaccompanied minors have been apprehended crossing into the US. The massive influx of unaccompanied minors has placed an enormous burden on American taxpayers, who have unknowingly and unwillingly aided criminal organizations in the trafficking of these children, according to investigative reporting provided by Project Veritas.
The Biden administration continues to allow unprecedented numbers of illegal aliens to cross into the United States, incentivizing the increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors to climb into the hundreds of thousands. As such, the need for housing facilities to accommodate unaccompanied minors while the children wait to be released to sponsors continues to climb.
Like many small cities in Texas, the rural town of Eagle Lake, in Colorado County, with a population of about 3,700, has finite resources, a reality which the new mayor, Tim Kelley, and other council members quickly pointed out during a November 2022 city council meeting. The November meeting was the fourth meeting, where leadership from the non-governmental agency, Endeavors presented information on the intention of opening a housing facility in the city for unaccompanied minors.
In April 2021, Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference outside the federally run temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors in the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. Calling the facility a "health and safety nightmare," Abbott stated that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, along with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, received allegations of abuse, including sexual assault of the unaccompanied minors in the care of the federal facility. Gov. Abbott ordered immediate investigations of the claims by state law enforcement agencies.
In May 2021, Gov. Abbott signed an executive order (EO) discontinuing state licensing of child-care facilities under federal contracts sheltering "unlawful migrants" or unaccompanied minors. In November 2022, non-governmental organization (NGO) Endeavors CEO Jon Allman, and Chief Operating Officer (COO) Chip Fulghum, informed the City Council of Eagle Lake that there are 52 federally run facilities operating in Texas with state licenses either expired or set to expire in the near future. As a result, Fulghum alluded that the federal government will be forced to find a way to go around the EO and allow funding to NGO unaccompanied minor housing facilities in the state.
While other NGOs may come to the forefront of thought when discussing the topic of immigration, such as Catholic Charities, Endeavors became headline news in early 2021 after the organization received multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts. In January 2020, Endeavors named Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, a former senior official to Biden, as government liaison. Two months after the announcement, Endeavors received substantial government contracts and grants, shifting the NGO's focus and funding from veteran assistance to care of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors.
Before the substantial grants afforded to Endeavors for the care of unaccompanied minors, the organization had received $43 million in 2018. Since the acceptance of no-bid contracts with the shift towards the care of unaccompanied minors, the non-profit has received over $1.860 Billion, a tremendous increase in funding. Sadly, aiding unaccompanied minors appears far more financially beneficial than assisting American veterans.
Family Endeavors assumed care for unaccompanied minors in Pecos, Texas, and Scottsdale, Arizona. Further controversy would soon follow, as records showed that the NGO, in conjunction with ICE, wasted $17 million in hotel rooms which went largely unused, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Despite claims by Endeavors leadership throughout four Eagle Lake city council meetings, before the Biden Administration, the organization did not have exclusive experience in caring for unaccompanied minors, having no previous direct history of contracting directly with ICE, according to the Washington Examiner. This has caused concern for some, questioning whether the non-profit is suitable to handle such an enormous task given the lack of direct responsibility.
Endeavors representatives advised Eagle Lake City Council members that the organization has previously assisted other non-profits, such as BCFS, with caring for unaccompanied minors. Endeavors leadership attempted to cite the aid as experience in caring for unaccompanied minors. This quoted affiliation once again raises alarm. In September 2021, the government watchdog group, Judicial Watch, revealed information obtained by Freedom of Information Act request, detailing 33 cases of sexual/physical abuse of unaccompanied minors. Alleged cases included two BCFS locations.
Considering the detrimental effects the border crisis continues to have on Texas and border communities, residents and city officials of the rural southeastern town in Colorado County have concerns. Concerns for the community's safety, the potential financial impact on local law enforcement, and, given the history of abuse in such facilities, concern for the protection of unaccompanied minors.
Endeavors targeted Eagle Lake to open its doors for housing unaccompanied minors, claiming it was an ideal location with its proximity to a major airport (Eagle Lake is outside of the Houston metroplex area) and the facility that was available for purchase. The NGO purchased an abandoned nursing home, spending $10 million renovating the building to ensure the facility is suitable for housing minors. According to Endeavors leadership, the Eagle Lake facility is expected to house male unaccompanied minors ranging from 13-17 years of age with the intention of accommodating no more than 60 individuals at a time with an expected annual operating cost of over $7 million.
During the Eagle Lake city council meetings, Endeavors leadership stated that the facility would be "state of the art," noting the availability of a sensory room not seen in other comparable facilities. According to Endeavor's COO Chip Fulghum, 40% of the minors they receive have endured sexual abuse along the route to the US. Fulghum stated that many of the children are from the northern triangle, sent by their parents who "believe their situation is so destitute" they (the parents) are willing to give their child to a criminal organization, spending about $8,000 each getting their children to the US border.
Given the facility's proximity to a school and strapped resources of local law enforcement, concerns from the city council and local residents included potential gang affiliations of the unaccompanied minors and the potential of runaways. Fulghum addressed this concern by pointing to the NGOs’ reliance on what he described as extensive background checks of the minors by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), stating that 1% of unaccompanied minors have known gang affiliations, according to CBP data.
In November 2021, a man from Honduras crossed illegally into Texas, posing himself as an unaccompanied minor. Yery Noel Medina Ulloa, age 24, successfully lied and received aid through a facility for unaccompanied minors, received his Notice to Appear from CBP officials, and eventually made his way to Florida. While living in Florida, Ulloa murdered Francisco Javier Cuellar, father of four, before lying again to state law enforcement, claiming to be 17. It is unknown what facilities Ulloa was processed through, but it does call into question how many other adult men have posed themselves as minors, and the vetting process of the children Endeavors' leadership quickly cites, and the NGO relies on. The situation also calls into question the vetting process of sponsors the unaccompanied minors are released.
Over the four city council meetings, Fulghum repeatedly stated that 90-95% of the children have sponsors in the US, saying that very few minors are a category 4. While this is statistically true, it is essential to note that HHS and ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) have four categories of sponsorship for unaccompanied minors. According to HHS, in FY22, there was a total of 128,097 unaccompanied minors released to sponsors in the US. Of which, 18,737 fell under category 3, described as "other sponsors, such as distant relatives and unrelated adult individuals," equating to about 14%. In other words, most unaccompanied minors are released not to a parent waiting in the US but instead to category 2 and 3 level sponsors raising substantial and valid concerns.
In September 2021, Axios reported the Biden Administration losing track of 1 in 3 unaccompanied minors released to sponsors in the US. Since then, numerous reports concerning the whereabouts of unaccompanied minors released to sponsors have come out. In September 2022, nearby Houston PD raised alarms stating that dozens of unaccompanied minors were reported missing. In December 2022, Project Veritas, with information from a DHS whistleblower, tracked down dozens of unaccompanied minors released to sponsors in Texas. Many of the children found were staying with several unrelated men; some children did not know their own names or ages. One young girl of 16 was released to who she was told was her aunt. According to the minor during the interview, the aunt forced her to sleep with several men until she ran away.
So far, Gov. Abbott's executive order has prohibited Endeavor's facility from receiving funding from federal agencies for the Eagle Lake location. Although the Governor's EO has slowed down the facility's opening, the NGO intends to open its doors eventually. Representatives from the non-profit explained to Eagle Lake city council that they are waiting on a response from filed exemptions to usurp state licensing requirements typically needed to receive allocated funds. In other words, despite the Executive Order by Gov. Abbott, and hesitation due to potential concerns on the rural area by city officials, Family Endeavors fully intends to open its doors to unaccompanied minors as soon as federal agencies release the funding.
Eagle Lake city officials asked Endeavors to partake in a town hall open to the public, where local residents would have an opportunity to ask questions and receive information about the proposed facility. Endeavors has obliged the city council’s request. The town hall meeting will be held Tuesday, January 17th, at 6:00 p.m. Stay tuned for upcoming updates on the unfolding situation.