Immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a detention center for immigrant families, in Karnes City, Texas. Sept. 10, 2014. AP Photo/Eric Gay
Photo: Eric Gay
Photo: Eric Gay

Feds halt efforts to open Atlanta-area shelter for immigrant children

The federal government has halted efforts to establish an Atlanta-area shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended along the southwest border.

The government solicited proposals this year for at least 96,000 square feet for classrooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, medical facilities and two acres of outdoor play area in southwest metro Atlanta for up to 500 of the children.

RELATED: Feds looking to house 500 immigrant children in metro Atlanta

The request, which called for up to a 20-year lease, has been withdrawn, U.S. Health and Human Services Department spokesman Mark Weber confirmed. HHS is also no longer seeking proposals for new shelters in central Florida, Northern Virginia and Los Angeles, though it is pursuing additional space for housing immigrant children in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Phoenix and San Antonio.

The search in Arizona and Texas, Weber said, is “looking very promising, so there is really no need at this time to pursue property in all these other places.”

The move follows the government’s announcement in June that it had decided against temporarily sheltering such children at Fort Benning, south of Columbus, because of troop “readiness” concerns.

Pentagon: Troop readiness concerns knocked Fort Benning off list of potential shelters for immigrant children

The government is scrambling to care for tens of thousands of children under 17 who are crossing the U.S.-Mexican border without parents and who have no legal status in the United States. Many are fleeing deprivation and violence in their native countries and seeking asylum in the United States.

Once they are apprehended, the children are transferred to the care of the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement. That office cares for them until they are released to sponsors — usually parents or other relatives — while their immigration cases are heard. As of August, the agency had received referrals for more than 67,000 such children last fiscal year, an increase of more than 49% from the same period in the previous fiscal year. HHS is now caring for 5,000 of them.

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