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‘Not a conspiracy’: Lawmakers discuss plans to house undocumented minors at Tunica hotel

Harrah's Hotel Complex in Tunica
Harrah's Hotel Complex in Tunica (Photo from Tripadvisor)

The grounds of what used to be a casino hotel in north Mississippi could soon be used to house undocumented immigrants.

Multiple state lawmakers have informed SuperTalk Mississippi News earlier this week that an effort is underway to use the vacant Harrah’s Hotel Complex in Tunica as an influx care facility through the U.S. government’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The plan, according to those lawmakers, is to house as many as 2,000 undocumented minors at the facility which was once the largest casino in the state.

“It’s not a conspiracy theory. They are trying to stick them in Mississippi,” said Republican Rep. Dan Eubanks, who lives 15 minutes away from the casino grounds that have been vacant since 2014 and claims Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson is behind the plans. “Evidently, somebody from Bennie Thompson’s office was trying to orchestrate it.”

On Wednesday, Tunica County Board of Supervisors attorney John Perry confirmed to Memphis-based WREG that the owners of the Harrah’s property are in conversations with a suitor interested in purchasing the facility. Eubanks claims he was given secondhand information that operators within Thompson’s office are working with the potential buyer to use the location to house migrants.

Eubanks went on to estimate that the federal government would pay the property’s owner roughly $150 per individual facilitated in the former casino hotel on a nightly basis if the venue became an influx care center, though Perry noted that the board of supervisors has not approved any initiatives to bring undocumented migrants to north Mississippi.

Nonetheless, Perry did assert that the hypothetical concept of the old Harrah’s complex becoming an influx care facility would not be a nuisance to the community. Elected officials and local law enforcement begged to differ.

“I’m trying to think of all of the issues and concerns that you have having 2,000 minors sitting in the Delta with nothing to do and nowhere to go,” State Senator Josh Harkins, a Republican out of Rankin County, said on The Gallo Show. “I don’t know what they plan to do with them or how long they plan to keep them there. It’s concerning on a number of levels.”

The Tunica County Sheriff’s Office parroted the lawmaker’s sentiments, adding that the area lacks the resources necessary to meet the possible emergency needs of thousands of people, especially children, introduced to the region.

“We do not have the adequate resources to support or accommodate the Immigrants Initiative. When it concerns public safety, public healthcare, along with child protective services; Tunica County does not have a local hospital in the event of an emergency,” a statement from the law enforcement agency reads. “We have to transport our patients to area hospitals located in Desoto County, Tate County, Clarksdale, and Memphis, Tennessee.”

No formal plans to bring undocumented minors to the facility have been released to the public at this time. Any facility sheltering children is subjected to strict federal regulations.

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