The federal government is looking for a location in southwest metro Atlanta to house up to 500 unaccompanied immigrant children who have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The move was precipitated by what politicians have referred to as the human crisis at the southern border, where tens of thousands of children under 17 from many nations are crossing without parents or legal status. The government has recently been chastised by reports of horrific conditions in which some of the detained children have been found living.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department wants a Georgia location in the region south of I-20 from downtown Atlanta to Carrollton and west of I-75 between downtown to about Griffin.
The request calls for at least 96,000 square feet of space with room for classrooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, medical facilities and two acres of outdoor space for play. It will take about 167 staff members to operate it.
HHS is accepting bids until late July. The facility has to be ready by June 2020. The request calls for up to a 20-year lease, according to details posted on the Government Services Administration website.
Once children with no legal status are apprehended, they 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.
The federal government put out requests for housing proposals to keep a total of 5,000 children here and in four other sunbelt cities: Dallas/Forth Worth, San Antonio, Houston and Phoenix.
HHS visited Georgia’s Fort Benning in June, part of its effort to find shelter for children at military bases. The Columbus-area military base was removed from consideration because of concerns about troop readiness, according to the Pentagon.
Attempts to contact HHS were unsuccessful.