On Friday, the Greensboro Influx Care Facility (ICF), which has long been delayed since its initially planned opening last August, will become operational, according to the federal US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  

The facility, formerly called the American Hebrew Academy, has been the source of many questions but few answers after it was leased by HHS in 2022 to house unaccompanied minors who are illegally immigrating to the United States.

Following this announcement, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, and Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, led their colleagues in sending a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on March 7th, demanding transparency on this issue. 

“Since HHS began discussions to contract an ICF in North Carolina, we, along with other congressional colleagues, have consistently conducted oversight regarding this facility,” according to the letter.  “On multiple occasions, we have requested information regarding the Greensboro ICF, including inquiries into site selection, contracts, services, and plans to ensure the well-being of the unaccompanied minors. We similarly have inquired about the impacts on the local community and surrounding areas.” 

Tillis and Hudson were joined by Sen. Ted Budd, R-NC, and Republican Reps. David Rouzer, NC-07, Dan Bishop, NC-08, Virginia Foxx, NC-05, Greg Murphy, NC-03, and Patrick McHenry, NC-10, and Rep Chuck Edwards, NC-11, in signing the letter. 

This is not the first letter to Secretary Becerra that Tillis and Hudson have spearheaded. They also sent a letter on this issue back in July of 2022. Except for Edwards, the same legislators signed that letter, plus former Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina. 

Management of ICFs falls under the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS. 

“ORR is legally required to provide for the care and custody of all unaccompanied children referred to ORR until they are placed with a vetted sponsor, usually a parent or relative, while their immigration cases proceed,” read a March 8th press release from the agency. “ORR operates a network of 289 facilities/programs in 29 states and has a proven track record of accountability and transparency for program operations, as well as being a good neighbor in the communities where facilities are located. The impact of these shelters on the local community is minimal. Unaccompanied children remain under staff supervision at all times. HHS works in close coordination with local officials on security and safety of the children and community. The unaccompanied children in ORR custody do not attend local public schools. HHS arranges for the security of unaccompanied children. On-site security is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As of today, there are 8,902 children in ORR care. While ORR has worked to build up its standard bed capacity, additional capacity is urgently needed to manage the increasing numbers of unaccompanied chil­­dren referrals from DHS. In preparation for the potential need for additional beds and to provide services and care that align with child welfare best practices, HHS opened several influx care facilities (ICFs), which offer the full range of services offered in ORR’s network of care. ORR is committed to ensuring ICFs meet or exceed state licensing standards.” 

Initially, the facility was supposed to accommodate 300 beds, but the structure is designed for up to 800 beds.  

“The decision to operationalize the Greensboro ICF is to ensure ORR maintains its preparedness posture given the increasing trend of referrals of unaccompanied children to ORR’s custody and care,” according to an email from HHS. “No children will be placed at the facility at this time, while ORR monitors referrals of unaccompanied children and overall capacity needs. ORR will notify stakeholders, and appropriate congressional committees as required, before children are placed at the ICF.”

However, the letter signers say the Biden administration has been unresponsive, even misleading, on this facility.

“HHS Secretary Becerra has misled me and others about housing unaccompanied minors in North Carolina and refuses to be honest with us about the border crisis,” Hudson told the Carolina Journal in an email. “The lack of transparency over this process is beyond concerning, and is just another example of failed leadership and incompetence from the Biden Administration. North Carolinians demand and deserve answers.”

Tillis expressed similar concerns saying that their oversight questions have gone unanswered by the administration.

“Communication from the Biden Administration about the Greensboro Influx Care Facility has been inconsistent and insufficient,” Tillis told the Carolina Journal in an email. “Congressman Hudson and I have been waiting for months to receive answers to our oversight questions about the facility, particularly why North Carolina was selected for this facility despite being 2,000 miles away from the crisis at the southern border. Make no mistake, this is a disaster of President Biden’s own making, with almost 8.8 million encounters with illegal immigrants during his Administration. President Biden owes us answers now, and I will continue to work with Congressman Hudson to get more information on future plans for ICF.”

Officials at HHS have set up a designated email at the request of Democrat Rep. Kathy Manning, NC-06, who represents that area in Congress, for community members to use to ask questions, share concerns, and report feedback. She said she will keep the community updated.

“Given that children are not permitted to leave the facility, except in the case of a serious medical emergency, the children will not be in the community,” Rep. Kathy Manning, D-6th, told the Carolina Journal in an email. “Currently, buses are the designated transportation method for employees to arrive at the facility to curb automobile traffic in the area.”

Manning is not running for re-election; in fact, no Democrat is running to represent North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District. Former Congressman Mark Walker, ended his bid for the seat earlier on Wednesday, to take a post with the Trump campaign. He says the facility is a big concern for the people of his home district.

“We have been prohibited and barred from entering the facility and even knowing what is happening there. They have even refused to provide a supervisor or phone number to call and find out where these tax dollars are going,” Walker told the Carolina Journal. “I have also been sent multiple pictures and videos of what is happening at night by those neighboring the facility. It’s concerning on two fronts: not only are we hosting illegals there, but in 2019, it was taken over by Puxin Limited, the third-largest educational programming company out of Beijing, China.” 

Additionally, millions in contractor awards for the Greensboro facility are linked to a former ICE employee, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait. As reported in December by the Carolina Journal, Lorenzen-Strait and his then-ICE colleagues were involved in awarding a $50 million government management contract. The contract that is now under investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability,

Addison McDowell, the recently announced Republican nominee for the 6th Congressional District has not responded to the Carolina Journal’s request for comment as of publication time.