The nation’s largest migrant children’s care center has reported a 15-year-old boy missing. Southwest Key Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas, called law enforcement on Saturday when the teen left the facility. He is said to be back in Mexico.
CNN reported the breach on Sunday. Brownsville Detective J.J. Treviño confirmed that the department responded to a call placed on Saturday when the boy fled the facility. Neither a spokesman for the Southwest Key Programs, the nonprofit organization that runs the facility, nor the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services could confirm the whereabouts of the boy.
According to Southwest Key Programs spokesman Jeff Eller, as few as 50 children have opted to leave their facilities. If children want to leave Casa Padre, staff may only try to convince them to stay. Southwest Key Casa Padre is not a detention center and children are allowed to leave if they choose. The children are also permitted to call their parents.
“As a licensed child care center, if a child attempts to leave any of our facilities, we cannot restrain them,” Eller said. “We are not a detention center. We talk to them and try to get them to stay. If they leave the property, we call law enforcement.”
In the case of the 15-year-old boy, he was reportedly in communication with a man who was originally believed to be his father. The man was said to be in Dallas and was helping the boy with money.
According to CNN, a source revealed that the boy left the facility when authorities tried to confirm the teen’s relationship with the man in Dallas. The source claimed that the boy was still alive and that the man from Dallas was helping the boy travel to Honduras. His biological father is reportedly somewhere in the United States applying to become a sponsor for the boy.
The teen has been reported as a missing person, but efforts to locate him so far have been futile. If the boy is found, he will be returned to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security. From there, the boy will be placed with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
While Southwest Key CEO Dr. Juan Sanchez issued a statement condemning Trump’s separation policy, critics note that the mandate actually benefits the nonprofit organization. In fiscal 2018 alone, the nonprofit was paid at least $458 million to house migrant children, according to the Arizona Republic. Roughly 1,600 children are being housed in 26 shelters located in Texas, Arizona, and California.