Mississippi Says No to Housing Migrant Kids in Shuttered Casino Resort

  • State senators, Republican officials were against housing immigrant kids in ex-Harrah’s hotels
  • Supporters claimed kids would not pressure the community, detractors cited hospital care
  • Rehousing proposal up for review Monday with future unclear over Tunica’s opposition
Central American migrant family at US border
Mississippi’s Tunica County has rejected a plan to host migrant kids in hotel rooms at the shuttered Grand Casino Tunica. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

No to migrant kids

The Tunica County Board of Supervisors (TCBS) in northwest Mississippi has said no to a proposal to house migrant children in a repurposed shuttered casino resort.

The board voted 3-2 on Thursday against the proposal, siding instead with “Mississippi’s Republican state officials and the local sheriff” who were against rehousing the unaccompanied kids.

Associated Press cited a Mississippi lawyer’s disappointment in the TCBS’ decision not to back her client’s project to reuse the shuttered property that Harrah’s launched in 1996 as the Grand Casino Tunica.

would have been “an important part” of its proposal to the federal government

Attorney Shantrell Nicks stated in a letter supporting her client Rapid Deployment’s pitch to reuse the vacant 2,200-acre property that closed in 2014, saying it would have been “an important part” of its proposal to the federal government.

While the casino was demolished, multiple proposals to repurpose the property with over 1,000 hotel rooms have failed.

In a closed session, TCBS officials discussed Rapid Deployment’s proposal, with state senators and other Republican officials stating their opposition and voting to not support the rehousing plan.

Crossed purposes

According to the AP, Nicks said in a recent meeting that the ex-Harrahs’ property would rehouse up to 250 children below the age of 17, “not the 2,000 previously discussed.”

Nicks stated the project would hire local workers and run on a five-year plan, and that rules would stipulate the children housed there could not receive visitors and that they would stay contained within the property.

“There’s no strain to the local government as a result of this temporary children’s shelter,” Nicks explained. “We are not going to attempt to enroll these children in local schools.”

many of his constituents had “raised concerns about this project’s impact on the community”

The threat of a flood of migrant kids moving into Tunica proved enough to galvanise opposition. In a statement Friday, US Senator Roger Wicker (R) said many of his constituents had “raised concerns about this project’s impact on the community.”

Wicker said it was “clear” the Mississippi county’s “health care, transportation, and other services were unprepared for this sudden influx.” The senator backed his opposition by sending a letter expressing his stance to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp, meanwhile, earlier bemoaned the county’s lack of resources to take care of the immigrant kids, such as a lack of a hospital in the community.

The AP, however, cited local officials as stating their preference for the property was to redevelop it “to enhance tourism and gambling in Tunica County.”

Past glories

While local officials may dream, the casino market horse left the Tunica stable a long time ago. Once a thriving gambling hub for parts of the South and Midwest, expanded legalization means neighboring states now have their own casinos, with a casino in Arkansas for good measure.

WHBQ-TV reported that while the rehousing proposal was up for review on Monday, the opposition to the project means it is unclear if Tunica will ever agree to accommodate multiple migrant children.

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