Shelter for migrant children in Arkansas still possible

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 20, 2017 4:56 PM

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — A former job corps site is Arkansas has been sitting vacant but potential options for its use are an at-risk youth program expansion and a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children being held at the U.S. border.

The property first sparked the interest of the Arkansas National Guard in December, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (http://bit.ly/2jUyRxQ ) reports. The Guard wants to use the former Ouachita Job Corps site near Hot Springs to house a program that would offer life-skills lessons to at-risk youth, but spokesman Lt. Col. Joel Lynch says the majority of the details and a timeline are still unknown.

An HHS official said Friday the agency might temporarily run the shelter at the federally-owned site if the Guard doesn't plan to establish the program by summer or fall.

Such shelters are a step between the children's detentions and their long-term releases to sponsors with whom the children live while their immigration cases are heard.

According to Office of Refugee Resettlement chief of staff Andrea Helling, temporary shelters are needed as overflow centers when the number of detained children spikes.

The Garland County complex would require at least $2 million in renovation before either of the proposed uses for the facilities could be implemented.

Three members of Arkansas' congressional delegation have opposed converting the abandoned facility into a shelter for immigrant children. U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, whose district includes Garland County, and U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton issued a joint statement in December calling the proposal "irresponsible and against the wishes of Arkansans."

___

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com