SUBURBAN LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) expects more immigrant girls will be transported to the shelter facility it is managing in suburban Lake Worth.
Right now, 37 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 are living at the shelter which has a capacity of 141.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel visited the shelter Monday and said she was pleased with what she saw.
"They were in classrooms, they were all busy, they looked well," said Frankel.
The average time the teens will spend in the shelter, according to the director, is 15 to 30 days with a maximum of two months. The teenage girls will eventually get a sponsor or be united with a family member already living in the U.S.
"These young girls are now living in a little corner of sunshine," said Frankel about the shelter called "Rinconcito del sol," which literally translates to "Little Corner of Sunshine."
Frankel and the directors of the shelter, who are with the nonprofit, USCRI, say the unaccompanied minors crossed the border without a parent.
"I asked one of the young ladies, why couldn't she study in her country and she basically told me her father was killed in front of her while she was studying," said Frankel.
Elcy Valdez, the director of the shelter, said the girls are from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua and some were transported from the Homestead facility.
Community members have also stepped up to donate clothes and items by dropping them off at the Youth Co-Op office which is collecting donations for the shelter Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"I'm hoping that it will give them a sense that somebody cares, that somebody doesn't want them in old stained clothes and shoeless," said Frannie Schafer, who stopped by the shelter to donate clothes and shoes.
Schafer said she was heartbroken when she heard about the conditions children are living in at detention centers near the border. She says she's glad the immigrant girls have come to a shelter in Lake Worth.
"It's many, many steps up from the cages that we're seeing," said Schafer.
Congresswoman Frankel said the shelter will need help from the legal community to provide legal counseling and services for the teens. She said she will try to advocate for them in Congress by finding ways to deal with the immense backlog of immigration cases.
"Each of these girls will eventually have to go through an immigration process and we are told that the backlog is in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands," added Frankel.
Below is a statement from USCRI:
"Members of the public have expressed interest in donating or volunteering to help unaccompanied alien children. There are several voluntary, community, faith-based or international organizations assisting unaccompanied children. You can find resources and contacts in your state at the following online address: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/orr/state-programs-annual-overvie [acf.hhs.gov]w [acf.hhs.gov].