For the first time, FOX 12 is getting a look inside a Portland shelter that’s housing unaccompanied immigrant children.
Morrison Child and Family Services is the nonprofit that operates two facilities housing immigrant minors in Portland. The organization is asking the media not to release the location of the centers to protect the privacy of the children.
A first-time look inside one of the secret locations reveals various recreation rooms, a total of 70 beds, many classrooms, a cafeteria, kitchen and gymnasium.
“We are not interested in keeping kids from families, it’s the opposite," Drew Henrie-McWilliams, CEO of the nonprofit, said. "We want families to take on the kids and for it to be a good match."
Henrie-McWilliams said the Portland building contains both a shelter and a group home. Morrison operates the shelter with 50 beds, for both boys and girls, all teenagers between 13 -17 years old. Organizers said most of the teens are from Latin America. Reporters weren’t allowed to see the kids due to privacy concerns.
Morrison also runs a group home inside the same building. It has 20 beds for teenagers seeking permanent legal status. The nonprofit said children at the facility stay anywhere from a few days to a few months.
Henrie-McWilliams said the non-profit also has a second location in Portland with 16 beds. He said it’s a more secure facility that houses boys with mental and behavioral issues. Media was not invited to that location.
“ORR is not thrilled that I’ve done this,” Henrie-McWilliams said.
The non-profit is the only organization in Portland that receives federal funding from the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR.
While the non-profit can’t say who exactly sleeps at the facilities, immigration lawyers with Immigration Counseling Services confirm that ORR placed at least four undocumented children, recently separated from their families at the border, in Portland.
“Some of the kids who’ve been trafficked have been sought after. The kids feel safe here, that’s why you would see bars on the window, to keep people from coming in,” Henrie-McWilliams said.
The CEO said the teenagers are either waiting to be reunited with their family in the U.S. or hoping to be matched with a sponsor family. Henrie-McWilliams said the kids take trips outside every day, have access to case workers, teachers, counseling services and medical help.
“People just made assumption this wasn’t a good place for kids, we’re keeping kids from their families, but it’s the opposite,” Henrie-McWilliams said.
The nonprofit said the minors living in the shelter breathed a huge sigh of relief when President Donald Trump decided to no longer separate families at the border. That executive order is also considered a victory for a group of protestors camped outside the ICE headquarters in Portland.
“This is where we do logistics, we have bathrooms over here, that’s the main check in desk,” said Garrett Hour, protester and member of Occupy ICE.
Hour gave FOX 12 a tour of the pop-up tent city that now surrounds the ICE office.
“Over here we have the medical tent,” Hour said.
Hour said hundreds of campers have stayed outside the ICE office for five days. He said they’re not going anywhere until ICE is abolished in Portland, a sanctuary city.
“Portland wants us here, this is the city fighting back,” Hour said.
But during our tour of Occupy ICE, led by Hour, other group members asked us to leave.
“People are really worried which is understandable,” Hour said.
As this camp continues to grow, so does the tension and concern.
“All entrances to the ICE facility have been barricaded," Hour said. "This is the breaking point where people are fighting back, we’ll continue to fight back.”
The Federal Protective Service said there was one arrest made at the ICE office protest on Tuesday, as demonstrators surrounded the vehicle of a departing employee. ICE officials say the headquarters will stay closed until there are no more security concerns.
Below is a statement provided by Morrison Child and Family Services:Morrison Child and Family Services has been providing prevention, mental health, and substance abuse treatment for children, youth, and their families for over 71 years. Nine years ago, long before the Trump administration and the current tragedy on the southern US border, we entered into a contract with the federal government to provide support for undocumented immigrant youth coming into the U.S. the vast majority of whom came without a parent or guardian. Our role under this contract was and remains to find homes and provide other needed services for these youth who range from 13-17 years of age until more permanent solutions can be found. These young people, who comprise less than 5% of the total population we serve, are housed in one of two locations in Portland and upon request are free to leave our facilities anytime they choose. We provide housing, food, education, medical and other individualized services until we can either place them in an appropriate environment in the U.S. or they request to leave back to their home country. The locations of our facilities are kept confidential for the safety of the children and as required by federal law.
We too have been shocked, horrified, and heartbroken by the change in policy and practice at our Southern border and it's terrible impact on immigrant families. Our mission is and remains to serve children throughout the Portland metro region and the state who need support and services regardless of where they come from. Our staff are dedicated to providing these services day in and day out, and we thank you for your support.Copyright 2018 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.