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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said in a letter to Rep. Kathy Manning that immigrant children “may” arrive at its facility in Greensboro by the end of the year.

Manning’s office on Friday said she had received a letter in response to the detailed request for information about the Greensboro Influx Care Facility she had sent in June to January Contreras, the assistant secretary for DHHS’s Administration for Children and Families.

Rep. Kathy Manning
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro)

This is the former American Hebrew Academy, at 434 Hobbs Road, where DHHS will place immigrant children who are unaccompanied by adults or otherwise separated from family either traveling from another country or already in the U.S.

“I’m glad to receive a response to my initial request to HHS regarding the Influx Care Facility planned in Greensboro,” Manning said in a statement released by her staff. “I am committed to ensuring transparency for my constituents, and the response outlines details on a proposed operations timeline, job opportunity information, and safety protocols for the facility and our community.

“I will continue to work with HHS to provide the Sixth District with necessary updates on the facility.”

The letter from Contreras enlightened on a few points that had not been known, outlining previous community briefings – Manning participated in one of those — and the specifics that had been discussed at those.

Since writing her letter in July, Manning, a Democrat whose 6th Congressional District includes Greensboro, had been part of a group of community leaders who were briefed in August by DHHS staff. That was about the time the facility’s opening was placed on “warm” status because of a dispute about the bids DHHS had let for one of the contractors at the facility.

The letter stated that, “depending on the finalization of all contracts, the site might prepare to receive children by the end of this calendar year. The decision to place children will be informed by the current census and capacity across ORR’s network. The letter said that children will not arrive “until the site is ready to safely receive children.”

This sign for the immigrant facility on Hobbs Road replaced the old American Hebrew Academy plaque. (LORI DENBERG)

The letter reiterated that the Greensboro Influx Care Facility will be an interim home for children between the ages of 13 and 17 years old – about 800 at the peak – who would spend about two to three weeks housed at the facility, which DHHS in early June leased for 5 years with an option for 5 more. 

The letter repeated that a staff of about 1,500 employees will oversee the children on a 24-7 basis – they won’t be allowed off the property, officials have said – but hiring and training for those positions are on hold while DHHS sorts out its bidding dispute.

A query sent by WGHP to people involved in the process, seeking an update on that dispute, did not draw an immediate response. The letter from Contreras reiterated that “community partnership is vital to the success of ORR programs.”

“They [the immigrant children] will have full medical care,” state Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Greensboro) said after the briefing in August. “Legal help. Mental health if they need it. Everyone will be vetted. … access to their family members.”

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The former American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro that now will be a facility for displaced immigrant children.

About the facility

The property on Hobbs Road is 100 gated acres that include 31 buildings of 412,712 square feet, an $18 million athletic center and natatorium, a variety of athletic fields and a 22-acre lake. The facility would be used to provide housing, classrooms and recreational facilities for children who are unaccompanied or who are waiting for family members and sponsors.

About the program

The ORR operates about 200 facilities in 22 states and has done so since 2002’s Homeland Security Act. In Fiscal Year 2021 the program handled 122,731 children, its information sheet says. DHHS reps earlier said there were about 8,749 such children in their system now.

ORR says that in Fiscal Year 2021 about 7 out of 10 children at its facilities were 14 or older, and two-thirds were boys. About half of them were from Guatemala and about a third from Honduras. The rest were from El Salvador and other countries.