A 15-year-old Honduran boy ran away Saturday from Casa Padre, a converted Walmart that holds migrant children in Brownsville, Texas. (Miguel Roberts / AP)

A 15-year-old boy from Honduras ran away from the nation’s largest facility for migrant children in Texas and may be back in Mexico.

The teen jumped a fence and bolted Saturday afternoon during “scheduled outside time” at the Southwest Key Casa Padre shelter on the outskirts of Brownsville, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

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A spokesman for the Brownsville facility confirmed that the boy fled on Saturday and that local authorities were alerted.

“As a licensed child care center, if a child attempts to leave any of our facilities, we cannot restrain them. We are not a detention center. We talk to them and try to get them to stay,” said Southwest Key Programs spokesman Jeff Eller.

The boy spent 36 days at the converted Walmart after being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border as an unaccompanied child. He did not come to the country with his parents or another relative, the source said.

Casa Padre has cared for more than 19,800 kids, 42 of whom have run away.
Casa Padre has cared for more than 19,800 kids, 42 of whom have run away. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

Prior to his escape, the federal Office of Refugees and Resettlement was in talks to reunite the boy with a man in Dallas claiming to be his father. The man had a birth certificate for the child, the source said, but a DNA test proved he was not the father.

The boy left the shelter before the man could be identified as any other family member.

Police in the border town were called to the Casa Padre shelter around 4:30 p.m. to take the runaway report for the teen, who was not identified.

“We searched the area, but we couldn’t find him,” Brownsville Police Detective J.J. Trevino said.

Firefighters searched a nearby river for signs of the teen out of precaution, Trevino said.

The source said the purported father was made aware of the escape. He called the shelter on Sunday afternoon and said he had been in touch with the missing child in Mexico.

He claims the boy crossed the border and was planning to go back to Honduras, according to the source.

Trevino was unable to verify if the boy was in Mexico. He said the child was logged as a missing person in the National Crime Information Center and had not been located as of Sunday evening.

Since the beginning of the 2018 fiscal year, the source said Casa Padre has cared for more than 19,800 kids and of that number — 42 children have run away.

The Southwest Key-operated shelter made headlines last week amid outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their families. Casa Padre is the main hub for migrant child housing in Texas — and the country — with enough beds for nearly 1,500 children.

Ten percent of the children Casa Padre cares for were separated from their families, the source added.

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The Austin-based nonprofit has snagged nearly $500 million in federal grants since late 2017 to care for the influx of migrant children, the majority of whom are from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

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