Some minors who migrated to the United States without their parents are waiting on buses in a parking lot outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas before being sent to live with relatives or sponsors, according to a report by NBC News.
These minors are staying on the buses overnight, eating and using the bathroom inside the bus, the owner of one of the bus companies and advocates for the children told NBC News.
According to NBC News, the family of one 15-year-old boy waited on buses in Dallas from Saturday to Wednesday before traveling to Seattle.
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The boy, Joel, came from Honduras to be reunited with his mother, Doris, and his uncle, Elvin, in Washington, NBC News reported.
Joel called Doris and Elvin on Saturday night from a bus in the Dallas parking lot, according to NBC News. Doris and Elvin were told by a Health and Human Services employee to stay by the phone for directions to pick Joel up on Monday, when he would be taken to Washington.
Doris and Elvin did not hear from Joel or HHS until Tuesday afternoon, when Joel called them from a friend's phone while still in the parking lot in Dallas.
According to NBC News, a news crew on location in the parking lot counted nine buses total Tuesday night, and crew members said they saw children on the buses on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Doris and Elvin were later told by HHS to expect Joel on Friday, NBC News reported.
According to NBC News, Joel has spent more than 42 days in HHS care.
NBC News reported that it is unclear how many children have remained on the buses as long as Joel, but Joel told Doris and Elvin that many children were staying for consecutive days and nights.
NBC News asked about the practice of holding children on buses in the Dallas parking lot, and within 24 hours, Doris and Elvin were told by HHS that Joel would be flown to Seattle for reunification by Thursday.
As of Thursday, all of the buses were gone from the lot, NBC News reported.
“This is completely unacceptable," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "We're quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened and we'll work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of the children is our priority.”
A spokesperson for HHS told NBC News that the agency "aggressively works with its interagency partners to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are safe and unified with family members or other suitable sponsors as quickly and safely as possible."
The owner of one of the bus companies told NBC News that he began renting his buses to MVM, the company that holds the government contract, last week.
The children are supposed to be "in and out," and wait only until there are enough children going to a certain location for a bus to depart, the owner told NBC News.
The bus company owner told NBC News that he visits his buses every 12 hours to clean them as all of the buses require a full mop down due to trash, food, and sometimes overflowing bathrooms.
The buses remain in the parking lot for 24 hours, the bus company owner told NBC News, and some children wait just a few hours while others stay on the buses overnight.
The buses take children from Dallas to destinations as far as New York and California, the bus company owner told NBC News.
“The reports of children being held in buses outside of the HHS facility in Dallas for extended periods of time are outrageous, unacceptable, and do not meet this administration’s standard for child care," a White House spokesperson told NBC News. "This incident is being immediately and fully investigated. There is no excuse for this kind of treatment of children and we will ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
Click here to view the full report on NBC News.