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NGOs Opening Doors to Unaccompanied Minors – Wider Implications Across Texas – Part II
"It was a matter of time before President Biden's policies, regarding the flood of illegals into our sovereign nation, would negatively affect rural Texas counties. I'm afraid we're seeing the tip of the iceberg right now." – Marie Day, Republican Women of Yoakum/The Daily Lavacan.
By: Sheena Rodriguez| January 31, 2023
Two weeks ago, we reported on Family Endeavors' intentions of opening a facility in the rural city of Eagle Lake, Texas. For background information on the non-governmental organization (NGO), Endeavors (also goes by Family Endeavors), please refer to the last post: Read Here.
Endeavors is set to open a permanent facility housing 13–17-year-old unaccompanied males in the rural city of Eagle Lake, TX, this Summer. The NGO has been working on preparing the once-abandoned nursing home and attempting to open the doors of the Eagle Lake facility since 2021, which was previously approved by a unanimous vote by the prior city council and mayor. Despite most of the renovations being complete for some time, the federal funding was held up due to a proclamation signed by Gov. Abbott in June 2021 which ordered the discontinuation of state licensing of facilities housing "unlawful immigrants" contracted with the federal government.
According to Endeavors leadership, a loophole around the Governor’s proclamation was necessary for federal funds to be released required to operate the facility. With assistance from several volunteers and offices of state legislators, Secure the Border/Alliance for a Safe Texas found the loophole Endeavors leadership referred to in the January 2023 Eagle Lake/Endeavors town hall meeting.
A request of information to the Texas Health and Human Service Commission (THHSC) revealed that in July 2021, THHSC created temporary rules based on an emergency declaration. According to a THHSC representative, the emergency rules were enacted for a year before being made permanent in July 2022, void of any public comment. The Federal Register posted by HHS (Health & Human Services, federal) stated that the THHSC enacted a "temporary exemption to Texas's State licensure requirement…" further noting that "it is unclear if the Texas legislature intends to provide a permanent exemption when the emergency rule expires."
Given the exemption was made permanent in July 2022, it remains unclear at this time whether the Texas Senate legislative oversight committee for THHSC played a role in authorizing the exemption despite the Governor's original proclamation.
THHSC updated guidance appears to attempt to change the intention or definition of the Governor's June 2021 proclamation by stating, "The Proclamation does not apply to child-placing agencies or to child-care programs that are exempt from or otherwise not subject to regulation by HHSC. A program that provides 24-hour care exclusively to one or more individuals not lawfully present in the United States who are in the custody of the federal government is an exempt program, as provided by 26 TAC 745.115."
The exemption provided Endeavors the workaround for Gov. Abbot's original proclamation and, according to Endeavors leadership, was acceptable to the federal government, allowing for the release of funding necessary for the facility's opening. In November 2022, Endeavors leadership informed new Eagle Lake city leadership that 52 similar facilities would require exemptions, indicating these types of permanent facilities may be opening throughout Texas. This would have much more broad and far-reaching implications across Texas. In other words, other areas across Texas may very likely be faced with similar facilities attempting to open doors in their communities.
With concerned constituents, Alliance for a Safe Texas helped to facilitate meetings with state representatives and senators directly impacted by the opening of the Eagle Lake facility. Since meeting with state legislators, we have been informed of at least one other facility in the beginning stages of purchasing an abandoned building and two other potential leads in other areas of Texas.
During the Eagle Lake townhall meeting, several concerns were raised by citizens of Eagle Lake along with residents of Colorado and nearby counties. The number one cited concern by residents revolved around safety. This top concern echoed during the meetings with legislators at the Texas Capitol last week.
“Where are our state leaders on this? Signing pieces of papers isn’t going to stop the flood. The border residents, rural cities, and law enforcement officials can’t take much more.” – Cynthia Penney, Colorado County Resident.
In part III, we will focus on evaluating some of the concerns stressed by local residents, along with some of the issues other rural areas are forced to contend with where similar facilities have opened operational doors.