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Midland County District Attorney Investigates Midland Migrant Shelter

District Attorney Laura Nodolf says her office, alongside the Sheriff’s Department, are looking into criminal allegations at a temporary migrant facility located in Midland County. 

The federal government set up the emergency facility to house some of the migrant kids who have recently arrived at the U.S-Mexico border, which has overwhelmed border facilities and migrant shelters nationwide.

By Mitch Borden 

Updated: 5:44 PM

Earlier this week, Midland County’s District Attorney Laura Nodolf announced her office had launched a criminal investigation into the temporary migrant facility located in Midland County.  

Nodolf didn’t detail the allegations sparking the investigation and hasn’t said whether staff members at the facility are the subject of the county’s inquiry. There’s no evidence personnel are currently under investigation by law enforcement, but local officials have been concerned about the possibility of abuse at the shelter, which is currently housing hundreds of teenage boys.

In a statement to Marfa Public Radio, Nodolf wrote that there have been concerns about the safety of the teenage boys staying at the Midland facility, along with the thousands of migrant children being held at facilities across the country.

According to Nodolf, “Concerns that the children at the Midland location were subject to abuse and neglect have been expressed by local law enforcement, state, and federally elected officials directly to [U.S Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement] with no answers.”

Nodolf, along with other local officials, has been vocal about her frustration with the Biden Administration setting up the Midland migrant shelter with little notice. Specifically, Nodolf has been bothered by HHS waiving criminal background checks for personnel working at shelters. 

Nodolf said her office and the Midland County Sheriff’s Department offered to perform background checks for the local shelter, but the federal government rejected their proposal on March 31. 

The investigation into the Midland facility coincides with Gov. Greg Abbott detailing allegations of sexual abuse at a federal migrant facility in San Antonio. Some immigrant activists agree with problems highlighted by the governor, saying more oversight at these types of facilities is needed, but question his timing since documented abuse at similar shelters has taken place in the past and Abbott did little in response, according to the Texas Tribune,

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is currently running the Midland shelter, said the agency wouldn’t comment on the investigation.

“ORR has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate sexual behavior at all [unaccompanied children] care provider facilities and acts quickly to address any alleged violations of policy, including initiating employee disciplinary action, termination, or reporting to appropriate investigative entities, such as law enforcement agencies and relevant licensing bodies,” a government spokesperson wrote in an email to Marfa Public Radio.

Southwest Key, a Texas-based nonprofit, whose personnel have provided child care services at the Midland facility since March 27, said all of their personnel working there have received an FBI background check, which checks an individual's fingerprints and criminal history.

The non-profit has been at the center of child abuse scandals at migrant facilities in the past but did not comment further on the investigation at the temporary shelter.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.