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Tunica County officials reject proposal to convert abandoned casino complex into housing for migrant youth

Initial plans to house undocumented migrant youth in a vacant north Mississippi casino’s hotels failed to move forward.

A narrow 3-2 vote by the Tunica County Board of Supervisors on Thursday will prevent a company from converting the former Harrah’s Casino Complex into an influx care facility (ICF) through the federal government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Shantrell Nicks, representing Rapid Deployment, the private entity looking to place the minors in the Tunica facilities, urged supervisors to support the proposal to allow what she called a “humanitarian effort” to provide temporary housing for children between the ages of 4-17.

“These children have crossed the border because they are trying to escape situations of asylum, particularly some type of abandonment or abuse. They’re victims of crimes and they have families that are legal residents that they are trying to be reunited with,” Nicks said. “This humanitarian effort would be totally funded by the federal government.”

The request from Rapid Deployment, a Mobile, Ala. business tasked with providing emergency response services, follows a competitive task order sent out to vendors seeking proposals to establish a new ICF to house roughly 2,000 migrant youth. Rapid Deployment quickly conveyed interest in converting the 1,356-bedroom Tunica hotel complex, which has been empty since 2014, into a center to accommodate the minors, though Nicks said the property would max out at 250 occupants.

Despite outcries from both federal and state officials as well as local law enforcement, Nicks contended that the property being used as an ICF would not burden taxpayers. She stated that the federal government would be footing the bill for services including housing, medical care, education, meals, security, and supervision of the minors.

On the public safety front, it was noted that youth housed in the former casino grounds would not be allowed to exit the premises without being escorted by an adult staffer.

“We have a building in Tunica County that’s been unused for 10 years that’s for sale,” Nicks said, noting previous failed attempts by site developers to put the property to use. “This is an opportunity at a humanitarian effort

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