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Very Real

Immigrant Teen Missing After Texas Facility Tries To ‘Reunite’ Him With The Wrong Man

The 15-year-old boy fled the Southwest Key Casa Padre facility after being “reunited” with a man who originally claimed to be his father.

By Samira Sadeque

A teenage boy has absconded from a Texas facility housing immigrant children separated from their parents, while authorities were embroiled in a confusion with a man who claimed to be the boy’s father.

Authorities were attempting to reunite the boy with a man thought to be his father, CNN reported — they then discovered the man was not his biological parent, though it is currently unclear how exactly they ascertained his identity.

The boy had been held at Southwest Key’s Casa Padre location in Brownsville, Texas — one of the largest centers holding migrant children in the country —for 36 days, according to CNN.  A Southwest Key Programs spokesperson confirmed that the 15-year-old undocumented and unaccompanied boy is now missing.

He reportedly “left” the facility on Saturday, the spokesperson told CNN. A U.S. Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed that he “ran away,” but was not able to provide further information about what happened to him after that.

Southwest Key did not respond to calls from Oxygen.com.

A runaway child becomes a missing persons case under the local police jurisdiction as soon as they leave the perimeters of the facility, a source told CNN.

After the man initially identified as the boy’s father was notified of this development on Sunday afternoon, he said that the boy had gone back to Mexico by crossing the river, according to the same source. The father said the boy had contacted him and was receiving financial assistance from him to travel back to Honduras. It was not yet clear how the “father,” reportedly in Dallas, was making the payment or communicating with the boy.

Southwest Key has 26 shelters across the country, with 17 facilities in Texas alone. Casa Padre holds the largest number of unaccompanied children who are housed in a converted Walmart facility, according to a Texas Tribune investigation.

President Donald Trump’s policy that separated more than 2,300 immigrant children from their parents has brought the Casa Padre facility under national focus. Last week, an investigation by Texas Monthly revealed inconsistencies and violations in the mission of Southwest Key, which claims to be improving lives of children and their families.

The investigation found that Southwest Key’s Casa Padre once hired a former Border Patrol Agent Ernesto Padron who had been arrested on charges of possession of child pornography in 2010 following an FBI investigation. He was never convicted because the statute of limitations on his case had passed due to a backlog in the district attorney’s office. However, despite his name making local news headlines, he passed Southwest Key’s “extensive background checks” and was later laid off for unrelated reasons.

The boy’s whereabouts remain unknown — if found, he will be sent to the Department of Homeland Security and referred again to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, another source told CNN.

[Photo: A guard checks cars at the entrance to Casa Padre on June 24 in Brownsville, Texas, where a 15-year-old boy went missing. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images]