Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday questioned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott about why he had attacked the Biden administration over reports of sexual assault at a migrant shelter despite being silent on the matter when President Donald Trump was in office.
Abbott, a Republican, announced during a press conference Wednesday that his state had received complaints of sexual abuse at a federal facility that houses migrant youth. Abbott blamed President Joe Biden’s immigration policies and called for the facility to be shut down.
But immigrant advocates condemned Abbott’s press conference as political theater, noting that he failed to speak up over widespread reports of sexual abuse at immigrant detention centers during the Trump administration.
“Governor, there were thousands of complaints of sexual assault at migrant shelters during the Trump years,” Wallace said during his interview with Abbott on “Fox News Sunday.” “Not to say that what’s going on now is right, but we couldn’t find one instance of you complaining and calling that out when President Trump was president.”
Abbott said there were “multiple differences” between how the Trump and Biden administrations handled the alleged sexual abuse, including the “constant communication” his office received from Trump officials on the matter.
He went on to suggest that he was fully aware of the migrant sexual assault allegations during the Trump administration but didn’t speak out at the time because those complaints were filed with federal agencies.
“The one that I talked about earlier this past week were reports that were filed with state agencies,” Abbott said. “So we have a duty to respond to any complaint about child sexual abuse as well as to investigate it and that’s exactly what I did to make sure it was addressed.”
“Don’t fall prey to Democrats or others saying, ‘Well, Abbott didn’t complain about this in the past,’” he added. “What they need to focus on is exactly what I called attention to last month in Dallas, Texas, where I pointed out then that there were going to be instances of child sex abuse taking place.”
The sex abuse Abbott cited Wednesday allegedly took place at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. More than 1,300 teens who crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico without a parent or guardian are reportedly being held there.
“In short, this facility is a health and safety nightmare,” Abbott told reporters Wednesday. “The Biden administration is now presiding over the abuse of children.”
From 2014 to 2018, under the Obama administration and subsequent Trump presidency, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 4,500 complaints of sexual harassment and abuse against government-run migrant shelters, The Texas Tribune reported.
“The only reason why Abbott is now acting like he cares about the children in these facilities is for political reasons,” Jonathan Ryan, CEO of the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, said in a statement.
“What the governor wants is for the Biden administration to stop allowing children to seek home and safety in this country,” Ryan added. “That is not the solution to the challenge we have in front of us. We must ensure the children are released as soon as possible and be reunited with their families in the U.S.”
Watch Abbott’s full appearance on “Fox News Sunday” below.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.