YMCA International Services helps unaccompanied teens in federal custody in Houston

As three more buses arrived in Houston early Saturday morning, YMCA International Services prepares to help the hundreds of unaccompanied migrant teens -- all girls between 13 and 17-years-old. 

"We're really mobilizing our forces and our teams to be ready for long hours and to give wherever we can," said Nicole Sam, Director of Immigration Legal Services.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee says, so far, 300 unaccompanied migrant children have arrived at an emergency housing facility in North Houston operated by the National Association of Christian Churches. The children are tested for COVID-19, fed, clothed, and cared for until they are connected to a relative or sponsor in U.S. The facility has space for 500 -- it is unclear if more children will be brought there.

Sam is responsible for helping the teens know their rights and navigate the complex legal system.

"Our goal is to make sure that their due process rights are honored and respected. It an incredible task," she stated. "We're tasked with trying to explain a complex immigration system that Americans who have grown up in this country don't understand."

In January, she and her staff were working with 25 unaccompanied migrant children at 3 Houston area shelters. In February, it was 225 children. 

Dayana Gomez Mendoza is the Director of the Post Release Services and Trafficked Persons Assistance Program with YMCA International Services. She says their case managers are also at capacity. They work with unaccompanied minors who are victims of abuse or have serious health needs.

"We make sure that the person who is trying to sponsor them will be able to provide for their needs, educate them, and provide them with resources so that they are able and equipped to service the minors once and if they are released," Gomez Mendoza explained.

Their work does not end there. She says they continue to follow up with the children once they are released.

"We go into the home to provide home visits and support. We provide referrals to mental health services, educational, legal," Gomez Mendoza added.

While Sam and Gomez Mendoza feel they cannot overstate how great the need is for probono attorneys, volunteers, and donations, they also agree they cannot overstate the need for compassion for these children.

"You have children who are orphaned, who are trying to reunite with family wherever they may be which includes here in the United States," Sam told FOX 26.

The other needs they have are for things like clothing and school supplies. If you would like to help or volunteer, click here.