Permanent unaccompanied migrant children shelters could be built in Florida, Virginia, California

In this July 9, 2019, photo, immigrants play soccer at the U.S. government's newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
In this July 9, 2019, photo, immigrants play soccer at the U.S. government's newest holding center for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay

Credit: AP Photo/Eric Gay

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that Central Florida is among three areas under consideration for a permanent shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.

The agency said it is considering leasing vacant properties in Central Florida, Virginia and Los Angeles.

Officials said the facilities could open in spring 2020.

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HHS said it operates more than 170 facilities and programs and has about 9,500 unaccompanied migrant children in its care.

U.S. Rep. Daren Soto, D-Kissimmee, said in a statement Tuesday, "It is a shame that it has come to this."

"The conditions at these facilities have been terrible, they have a history of human rights abuses and children dying in their care and they continue to remain insufficiently accountable to Congress," he said. "If Central Florida is going to have a detention center, then we must have humanitarian standards and unannounced congressional inspections to ensure proper treatment."

HHS said it is a child welfare agency that operates state-licensed residential centers, not a law enforcement agency that operates detention centers.

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