For The Record

Feds shelve plans to house migrant children in SW metro Atlanta

By: - August 13, 2019 7:30 am

Plans for a facility to house about 500 migrant children in Atlanta’s southwestern suburbs was shelved this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Map courtesy of U.S. General Services Administration.

Plans to open a facility in Atlanta to house about 500 migrant children who enter the United States without parents or legal guardians have been shelved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to Georgia state Sen. Mike Dugan’s office.

The agency “is no longer moving forward” with its search for a 20-year lease for roughly 2.2 acres southwest of Atlanta to be called the “Atlanta Residential Child Care Facility,” the Carrollton Republican said. Department officials “confirmed that they will not be proceeding with a facility of this kind in the county,” Dugan said.

Dugan’s office and HHS did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

The 24-hour facility, U.S. General Service Administration bid documents show, was proposed to hold 125 bedrooms for children, indoor and outdoor recreational areas, bathrooms, counseling and caseworker offices, a medical office, a dining room and 5,000 square feet of classroom space. It was supposed to house about 500 unaccompanied children and 167 staffers from the department’s Children and Families division. That division is charged with the care and custody of migrant children the U.S. Department of Homeland Security apprehends until they are released to sponsors while their cases remain pending in federal immigration court.

The facility target area was within a large area southwest of Atlanta covering parts of Carroll, Clayton, Coweta, Douglas, Fulton, Fayette, Henry and Spalding counties, according to a map included in bid documents.

The General Services Administration asked for bids in mid-May and set a late July deadline for vendors to submit offers. Children were supposed to start arriving next summer.

Nearly 70,000 unaccompanied children were detained at the border from October 2018 through last month, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Around 55,000 children were released to sponsors during that same time period, including nearly 2,000 in Georgia.

Facilities temporarily holding migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have come under intense scrutiny over the past year, following President Donald Trump’s June 2018 executive order requiring enforcement of federal policy on separating minors from adults found crossing into the country illegally. 

Jerry Gonzalez, the executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, welcomed the announcement Monday that the Atlanta-based facility is not moving forward and says he hopes it never will. 

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Beau Evans
Beau Evans

Beau Evans has covered local and state government and breaking news in New Orleans and California. He’s reported on immigration issues, the threat of rising seas to coastal areas, public safety and hurricanes. At The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Evans detailed the critical role government plays to ensure that people in a community have access to clean water and other public needs. In 2018, his investigative reporting revealed top officials at New Orleans’ cash-poor water utility dealt themselves huge raises, prompting several to resign. Evans’ prior reporting was in West Marin north of San Francisco for The Point Reyes Light. Evans is an Atlanta native who graduated with honors from The Lovett School and is an honors graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College. Beau was with the Georgia Recorder until January 4th, 2020.