Opposition from Mississippi officials regarding proposal to use former Harrah’s Tunica hotels as shelters for migrant children

Local officials in northwest Mississippi have expressed their opposition to a proposal that suggests using two former casino hotels as shelters for unaccompanied migrant children.

The Tunica County Board of Supervisors, in a 3-2 vote on Thursday, decided not to issue a letter of support. This decision came after facing opposition from Mississippi’s Republican state officials and the local sheriff, as reported by local news outlets.

Shantrell Nicks, an attorney at Rapid Deployment, stressed the significance of obtaining a letter of support from the county for the company’s proposal to repurpose vacant hotels. The proposal, which is due on Monday, holds uncertain outcomes at this point.

During the meeting, Nicks informed the attendees that the facility would now accommodate a maximum of 250 children who are 17 years old and younger. This number is significantly lower than the previously discussed figure of 2,000, as reported by WREG-TV.

According to her, the facility plans to employ local workers and will be in operation for up to five years. Visitors will not be allowed, and the children and teenagers will be confined within the premises.

According to Nicks, the temporary children’s shelter is not causing any burden on the local government. He emphasized that there are no plans to enroll these children in local schools.

The hotels were once a vital part of the Harrah’s casino complex, which unfortunately closed down in 2014. Following the closure, the casino was demolished, and various attempts to repurpose the hotels have been unsuccessful.

Supervisors made the decision after engaging in further discussions about the plan during a closed session. The plan faced opposition from both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators and several other Republican officials.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker expressed his concerns regarding the impact of the project on the community, stating that many of his constituents had raised similar concerns. He highlighted that Tunica County’s health care, transportation, and other services were not adequately prepared for the sudden influx. While he is relieved that the decision has been halted for now, he remains worried about the possibility of a similar proposal in the future.

Wicker expressed his opposition to the plan by sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday.

Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp previously stated that the county lacks the necessary resources, including a hospital, to provide care for immigrants. As a result, these individuals would need to be transported to nearby communities for assistance. Other local officials have expressed their preference for focusing on revitalizing the complex to boost tourism and gambling in Tunica County.

Harrah’s made its debut in 1996 under the name Grand Casino, boasting an impressive scale. With a staggering 1,356 hotel rooms spread across three buildings, it was truly a grand endeavor. The casino floor, which has since been demolished, was once the largest of its kind outside of New Jersey and Las Vegas.

Tunica’s casino market has experienced a continuous decline for over ten years. In the past, it served as the closest gambling destination for parts of the South and Midwest. However, many of those states have since established their own casinos, which has significantly impacted Tunica’s market. Moreover, the casino in West Memphis, Arkansas, has successfully attracted a substantial number of patrons away from Tunica.

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MBS Staff
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