A federal judge has ordered all undocumented children housed in a facility in northern Brazoria County to be moved to another facility amid allegations they were mistreated by employees at Shiloh Residential Treatment Center.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee stopped short of closing the facility, which is primarily a mental health facility that has for decades treated minors with serious mental health issues. Before being replaced by a splash page addressing the recent controversy and ongoing legal battle, Shiloh’s “About Us” section of its website said it “specializes in providing treatment services for children and youth with behavioral and emotional problems that pose a danger to themselves and others. These children and youth are often described as “difficult to manage, out of control, hyperactive, violent and rebellious.”
Gee’s ruling came after a lawsuit alleged children were mistreated, including times when they were medicated against their will and without parental consent.
Congressman Pete Olson said after five years of trying, he was finally able to tour the facility last week. Olson said he first approached Shiloh in 2013 and asked to see inside, but he was denied and told to contact the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Washington, D.C.
Olson said the facility can house up to 44 children and was opened for immigrant detention during the Obama administration. He said the children inside are there due to serious mental health issues, such as those who are suicidal.
While the current facility can house only 44 minors, Olson said he is worried it could be quickly expanded by the federal government.
He explained Shiloh has a lot of land at its center, which could be used for a tent city or other housing.
Olson said the facility is partly responsible for his decision to draft legislation that would require the federal government to notify local communities before opening shelters in their area.
Shiloh has a Manvel mailing address, but Manvel Mayor Debra Davidson pointed out it is not in the Manvel city limits.
Davidson said after word broke about the facility, she has received threatening and critical correspondence from those opposed to the facility.
But since it is not in the city, neither Davidson nor the city of Manvel have any control over the facility or any business it does.
On its website, Shiloh defended its staff and its record of treating minors with mental health issues.
“Once again, the allegations specifically about Shiloh have been found to be without merit by multiple regulatory and monitoring bodies,” the facility wrote. “The judge's ruling simply upholds what is already the law, and Shiloh agrees. Children should not have to remain in a more secure placement than is necessary, and children should not receive medications without consent. Shiloh has followed the least restrictive environment and informed consent rules for decades. It is the law everywhere. It is the task of ORR and the Flores attorneys to work out the procedures that contracted facilities need to follow for the immigrant population. Shiloh provides information to both groups in their longstanding suit.”
Shiloh also claimed that this summer alone it has been visited and inspected by many state and federal agencies as well as representatives from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.
“All of the widely distributed allegations about Shiloh were found to be without merit,” Shiloh reported. “The children have been found to be properly cared for and treated. Shiloh Treatment Center has a specific treatment purpose within the federal system. It does not participate in border actions.”