Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center for male teen aged migrants

Those of us lucky enough to grow up in a generally stable and safe country can hardly imagine the physical, emotional, psychological, and social struggles endured by refugees. Civil strife, resource deprivation, and political persecution often render people’s countries of origin uninhabitable. As a consequence, refugees travel in search of a safer place of residence. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights takes a firm stance on the rights of refugees. Article 13 of this critical document states that “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”[1]  The framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognized the struggles endured by refugees forced to flee from their homes. In the early days of the Biden administration, the struggle to humanely welcome refugees struck home as immigration officials work to convert the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center into a residence for undocumented teenage boys.

 

In the first six months of 2021, there was an influx of undocumented immigrants to the U.S.-Mexico border.[2] President Joe Biden ran an election campaign which included promises to modernize America’s immigration system, tackle the root causes of irregular migration, and create an efficient and fair application process for asylum seekers.[3] Critics have charged Biden with creating a “perverse incentives for vulnerable migrants to enter the U.S. in dangerous ways.”[4] Governor Gregg Abbott expressed similar concerns, arguing that President Biden has instigated “a humanitarian crisis for unaccompanied minors coming across the border” and that some of the minors held in custody could be human trafficking victims.[5] These warnings will likely strike readers as callously inconsiderate of the plights facing the refugees themselves. Political violence, gang violence, and natural disasters like hurricanes have all catalyzed human displacement.[6] The Biden Administration did not create the impetus for migration so much as migrants’ interpretation of Administration policies gave the migrants more confidence to believe that their attempts to enter the United States will be successful. While there was an increase in numbers of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border, data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection show that the increase started during the Trump Administration.[7]The surge of migrants and asylum seekers to the US-Mexican border has overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol stations.[8] Consequently, Biden’s administration responded by using existing infrastructure to house the immigrant overflow.

 

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is a space normally used for concerts, presentations, art exhibition, and conventions.[9] The Federal government leased this facility to house 200 teenage male refugees. According to Vern Young of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, “[The children] are well taken care of, they’ve got clothing and shower, feeding, and if course bedding, beds. So, they’re in good condition… They’re just happy to be here. There’s a lot of confusion. Obviously with children if you’re moving them from one place to another there’s a lot of apprehension. But they’re all happy to be here.”[10] Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins voiced similar confidence, reminding Dallas County citizens that “They’re not to be feared. They’re not anyone you’re going to see out in your community. People should just pray for these children.”[11]

 

But the choice to house undocumented migrants in these facilities has received criticism

from left and right alike. Greg Abbott has urged the facility to permit state investigators to interview the children and investigate COVID-19, drug cartel influence, and sex trafficking-related concerns.[12] Senators Mike Braun and James Lankford lambasted the conditions at migrant holding facilities in Donna and Rio Grande. Senator Ted Cruz made similar complaints last week when he visited Donna.[13] The League of United Latin American Citizens president asked where was Senator Cruz when the federal government placed children in the same cages during the Trump Administration.[14] Leftist critics of the Biden administration raised similar concerns, as with Jacobin Mag’s scathing rejection of Biden’s moderate immigration stance, stating that the Biden immigration reform proposal “continues to paint immigrants as criminals, instead of workers responding to labor demands and looking for a better life.”[15] There are good reasons to investigate the conditions of these migration facilities, even if major proponents of such criticisms raise these concerns for political reaons rather than their concern for the plight of migrants. Cognizant of the need for volunteer assistance created by these worrisome conditions, Catholic Charities of Dallas solicited the help of volunteers (especially multilingual volunteers) who are willing to help and “provide a graceful environment” for the children.[16]

 

On March 27, 2021, five teenage boys left from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention facility without permission. A US Health and Human Services spokesperson wrote that “[o]n rare occasions, kids leave the shelters without permission… On each occasion, authorities are notified, kids are found and returned, and, usually, transferred to another facility.”[17] Migrants face extraordinary risks in their efforts to find new homes.  When detained in a heavily monitored migration facility, refugees live in a precarious state of uncertainty. Migrants seek a home, not detained in a secured convention center, but within American society itself.

 

In June 2021, Texas media outlets reported the pending closure of the Kay Bailey Hutchison shelter. During the brief lifetime of this shelter the number of teenage children held in the shelter peaked at about 2,300.[18]

FOOTNOTES

[1] Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[2] Rick Jervis, “For many migrants unable to cross U.S. border, there’s often chaos, COVIS tests and then relief,” USA Today (March 27, 2021), https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/03/27/migrant-families-released-us-border-immigration-rules-biden/6992761002/

[3] “The Biden Plan for Securing our Values as a Nation of Immigrants,” Biden-Harris campaign website, https://joebiden.com/immigration/

[4] Jillian Kay Melchior, “Biden’s Border Crisis, Up Close,” The Wall Street Journal (March 29,2021), https://www.wsj.com/articles/bidens-border-crisis-up-close-11617057522

[5] Everton Bailey Jr. and Dianne Solis, “Migrant teens in US custody to arrive in Dallas; Greg Abbott will visit convention center,” The Dallas Morning News (March 16, 2021),

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/immigration/2021/03/16/migrant-teens-in-us-custody-to-arrive-in-dallas-gov-greg-abbott-will-visit-convention-center/  

[6] Jervis, USA Today.

[7] U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “Southwest Land Border Encounters,” https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-land-border-encounters “VERIFY: Yes, migrant border encounters are up during Biden administration, but were higher during Trump era,” WFAA.com https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/verify/southwest-migrant-border-encounters-up-biden-administration-higher-trump-era/287-c3fb3b00-49fd-40ca-a65f-f898b02d0eb4

[8] Jervis, USA Today.

[9] Dallas Convention Center website, https://www.dallasconventioncenter.com/about-us/photo-gallery

[10] Ken Kalthoff and Candace Sweat, “Migrant Minors Arrive, More Expected at Dallas Convention Center,” NBCDFW (March 18, 2021), https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/migrant-minors-arrived-more-expected-at-dallas-convention-center/2583570/

[11] Ken Kalthoff and Candace Sweat, NBCDFW.

[12] Ken Kalthoff and Candace Sweat, NBCDFW.

[13] Paul Sacca, “Senators say Biden officials blocked them from taking photos of migrant facilities; Ted Cruz posts video of confrontation,” Blaze Media, March 28, 2021, https://www.theblaze.com/news/senators-migrant-facilities-photos-border

[14] Alex Rozier, “Sen. Cruz tours Kay Bailey Hutchison Center where migrant teens are being temporarily housed,” WFAA.com, 29 March 2021, https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/sen-cruz-tours-kay-bailey-hutchison-center-where-migrant-teens-are-being-temporarily-housed/287-28ff0edd-1eca-43e4-bcf4-56ab343b190d

[15] Karina Moreno, “Joe Biden’s Immigration Reform Doesn’t Do Enough to Help Migrant Workers,” JacobinMag (March 28, 2021), https://jacobinmag.com/2021/03/joe-biden-immigration-reform-us-citizenship-act

[16] Everton Bailey Jr. and Dianne Solis, Dallas Morning News.

[17] William Joy, “Changes made at Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention after 5 children left, found by police,” WFAA8 (March 28, 2021 https://www.wfaa.com/article/news/local/dallas-county/changes-made-at-kay-bailey-hutchison-immigration-shelter-after-five-children-leave-found-by-police/287-0c142f6e-40d7-48d1-8036-73354be93a5c

[18] “Migrant teen shelter at Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center closes,” FOX 4, 4 June 2021, https://www.fox4news.com/news/migrant-teen-shelter-at-kay-bailey-hutchison-convention-center-closes

Cite this Page:

Emory McDowell, “Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center for male teen aged migrants,” Human Rights Dallas Maps, accessed October 26, 2021, http://humanrightsdallasmaps.com/items/show/30.

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