Photo via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
2016 photo of compound for migrant children in Homestead, Florida
Last month, news broke that the federal government had Central Florida on its list of possible sites
to house unaccompanied migrant minors.
Now, according to local leaders, there's a specific address in mind. And it's in Orlando.
U.S. Health and Human Services is interested in leasing the property at 1850 W. Landstreet Road, according to a letter Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings sent to a group of state representatives.
Demings, speaking with media Monday, said he would prefer federal government officials not choose Central Florida as the site for the next shelter because it "will create a lot of unnecessary panic and concern in our community."
"In all honesty, this particular issue is one that is divisive for not only Orange County but certainly for our nation, and you all know the reasons why," Demings said. "If I had a preference I would prefer that we not be a location in which the department of Homeland Security or the Department of Health and Humans Services would relocate a refugee center here in our community for unaccompanied children."
The General Services Administration, an agency that manages federal property, reached out to Orange County regarding the space, Demings said.
The property is currently a Travelodge which, when contacted, said they have no intention of closing. Demings said Orange County officials have not contacted the Travelodge.
Representatives for General Services Administration declined to comment on the Travelodge, referring instead to official online filings.
"GSA recently issued a presolicitation notice for a leased space in the greater Orlando area on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services," the organization said in an emailed statement. "GSA can only share the information found in the presolicitation notice at this time because this matter is in procurement."
The notice includes plans for the shelter, which government officials hope to use for 500 children. Details also account for 500 staff working at the facilities. The notice says there will be about 167 staff per 8-hour shift, but that care will be provided 24/7.
It will apparently consist of bedrooms, sleeping areas, bathrooms, classrooms, indoor recreation and multipurpose areas, medical, dining and food service, administrative and support space, according to the notice. Some 2 acres space will be allotted for outdoor recreation as well.
If the shelter is established at the proposed address, it would have to be classified as a residential care facility, Demings wrote in a letter to representatives.
That would involve obtaining a special use permit with a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Orange County Board of Commissioners. Currently, the building is classified as a commercial space and does not have the zoning green-light to operate as a shelter.
Screengrab via Google Street View
The Travelodge currently located at 1850 W. Landstreet Road
Central Florida lawmakers have pushed back against the government proposal since last month's announcement.
On Sunday, State Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis on the matter.
The letter echoed an earlier letter the senator sent
on Aug. 2 calling on DeSantis to use his political influence to stop any proposed detention sites from coming to Central Florida.
In her most recent letter, Stewart says the proposed detention times have changed from 30 days to indefinite, a modification the senator wrote could possibly be illegal.
"We embrace the family values that we strive to promote daily to keep it family friendly. We are the City Beautiful: Built on inclusiveness and family. The idea of separating children from their parents breaks the heart of
Central Florida," Stewart wrote.
"With that, I leave you with my personal feeling; separation of children from their parents for any amount of time is inhumane and I hope you can discuss this situation with Washington, DC."
Under the proposal, the Office of Refugee Resettlement would lease the property, build it up to state code, and establish a permanent site to reduce the need for temporary shelters when the others reach capacity. It would open its doors in spring 2020.
Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), released a statement last week denouncing ongoing efforts to place the center in Central Florida.
President Donald Trump and his administration have shown complete disregard for immigrant communities — we don't want any migrant detention camps in Central Florida, and if they were to ever open we demand easy access as state lawmakers to ensure the health and well-being
of children," Eskamani said.
"We must refuse even the concept of indefinite detention camps and make it a priority to provide unaccompanied children with homes, and connect them with family members. The lack of ability for this administration to care about immigrant communities is shocking and will lead to more child deaths at the hands of the U.S. Government.”
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