Lawmakers question Fed plan to house unaccompanied minors from southern border in Greensboro

American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro. Source: Flickr

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  • Greensboro's American Hebrew Academy closed in 2019 and will now be leased to the federal government for five years.
  • The vacant 100-acre campus valued at $84.5 million.

On June 10, news broke that that starting in July unaccompanied children (UACs) from the southern border would be transported to and housed at Greensboro’s American Hebrew Academy, with the federal government hiring 800 staff members to oversee the facility.

Now, North Carolina’s Republican congressional delegation has penned a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) acting director Andrea Chapman asking for more details.

“Due to the failures of the Biden administration to secure our southern border, every state, including North Carolina, is now suffering from the impacts of the Biden border crisis,” the letter said.

The letter continued by saying, “Given the effects of this crisis and decision to house UACs in our state, we demand answers to the following questions to help protect our constituents.

1. When did communication between the ORR and the American Hebrew Academy begin, in relation to using the Academy as a transition site for UACs?

2. What plans do you have in place to ensure standards of humane treatment of UACs at the Academy? Specifically, what plans do you have to prevent overcrowding, violence, and outbreaks of disease from occurring? 

3. Are there other locations in North Carolina your office is in discussions with to house UACs?

4. What actions are being taken by the Biden Administration to ensure the use of the Academy as a transitional campus does not pose a danger to North Carolina communities?

5. How much money are the taxpayers paying to house UACs in North Carolina? How much money are taxpayers paying to house UACs across the nation?”

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC8, who organized the effort, released a press statement on June 23 as well. In it, he says that Becerra told him in 2021 that there were no plans to house migrants in North Carolina.

“We are always looking for sites where we can provide the type of safety and security that children need, and we have sites throughout the country, but there is no plan I can tell you right now to shelter children in North Carolina,” Becerra is quoted as saying in the Washington Examiner.

In the WFMY story breaking the news of the plan, it says that DHHS will “provide schooling, mental and medical services, case management, legal services, and recreational opportunities” at the vacant 100-acre campus valued at $84.5 million.

“It is important to remember we are talking about a transition site for children. The facility is not a permanent home for unaccompanied minors,” Guilford County Commission Chairman Skip Alston is quoted as saying in the story. “ORR is legally required to provide for the care and custody of all unaccompanied children (UC) referred by DHS to ORR until they are appropriately and safely placed with a vetted sponsor. I can only imagine how emotionally and mentally difficult it must be to be a child in a new country, with a new language, to be all alone and separated from the comfort and support of the people you know who love and care about you.”

In Hudson’s press release, he blames the need for emergency transitional housing for children separated from guardians on President Joe Biden’s chaotic border policies.

“The need to settle UACs across the country stems from unprecedented numbers of illegal migrants crossing the southern border,” Hudson said. “Since President Biden entered office, nearly 3 million illegal migrants have been encountered at the border, including 239,416 illegal crossings in May, the highest monthly total ever recorded. In addition, more than 5,300 pounds of the deadly opioid fentanyl have been seized at the border, enough to kill more than 2 billion people.”

U.S. Reps. Ted Budd, Virginia Foxx, David Rouzer, Madison Cawthorn, Greg Murphy, Patrick McHenry, and Dan Bishop, all representing districts in N.C., joined Hudson in signing the letter.