Shelter for hundreds of migrant children in Mississippi hotels sparks controversy

TUNICA RESORTS – A proposal that is under consideration by officials of Mississippi to accommodate minors migrants who traveled unaccompanied by an adult in two old Hotels casino in the northwest of the state has drawn opposition even from the local police chief, who has said the county lacks the resources to implement the plan.

Local press reported that the refurbished facility would house up to 2,000 children and teenagers in hotels that were part of the Harrah's casino complex, which closed in 2014. The casino was demolished, and other proposals to repurpose the hotels have been unsuccessful.

County supervisors held an executive meeting Monday to discuss the project, but Tunica County Attorney John Keith Perry told WREG television that supervisors had not formally endorsed the plan.

“Obviously, anything that has to do with migration is a sensitive topic,†Perry said.

He added that the current owners are in negotiations with a private entity interested in acquiring the property, which, according to him, is in good condition after having been closed for 10 years.

There are no resources

Any facility that houses migrants ages 17 or younger has to comply with federal regulations, Perry said, and his understanding is that the facility would be “self-sustaining.”

“That way, there are no children who go out into the streets for safety reasons,†he commented.

The facility would also have to comply with a court agreement that governs how the federal government treats migrant children, including limiting how long they can be confined.

Tunica County Sheriff KC Hamp said Wednesday that the county does not have the resources, including a hospital, to care for the migrants, and that they would have to be transferred to neighboring communities.

“When it comes to public safety, public health, along with child protective services, Tunica County does not have a local emergency hospital,†Hamp said in a statement.

State Rep. Cedric Burnett, a Sardis Democrat who represents the area, also opposed the plan and said he supports efforts to redevelop the resort to improve tourism and gaming in Tunica County.

“I think that location should be used to complement the betting industry,†Burnett told WREG television. “You know that Tunica is a tourist city, we depend on gambling.†.

Burnett said profits from using the hotels to house migrants would be limited to the current owners and people who operate the facilities.

Thousands of minors continue to arrive

The Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that 74,357 unaccompanied minors; and 3,494 accompanied children have arrived in the United States in the 7 months of the current fiscal period.

Harrah's opened its doors in 1996 under the name Grand Casino. It was conceived on a large scale and had 1,356 hotel rooms in three buildings. His casino, now demolished, was the largest between New Jersey and Las Vegas.

Tunica's casino market has been in decline for more than a decade. While it was once the closest gambling destination in some parts of the South and North-Central region of the country, most of those states now have their own casinos. A casino in West Memphis, Arkansas, has also attracted many customers.

Thousands of minors continue to arrive