GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The influx of immigrant children at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services facility on Hobbs Road has been delayed, and some contract workers have been sent home due to the delays.
WGHP has learned that about two-thirds of roughly 500 employees of Deployed Services, a government contractor based in Tampa, Florida, who had been in Greensboro training to work at the facility, had been told to go home because of a change in status.
Thomas Ziemba, president and chief operating officer of Deployed services, told employees in a letter on Saturday that the DHHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement had placed the Greensboro Influx Care Facility into “temporary ‘warm status’ while they complete their work to engage a contractor to perform facility services at the site.”
His letter said that required some of his company’s employees to have their hours reduced and some would be returning to their homes. His letter stated that “we do not know how long ‘warm status’ will last, but we are told by ORR that their intention is to return to full operations and open ICF as soon as possible.”
A source with working knowledge of the situation confirmed to WGHP that the facilities contract bidding process had caused a dispute and the ensuing delay. WGHP reached out to the ORR for confirmation of these details and a question about the timetable, but there has been no immediate response. WGHP learned that there is a meeting today that could bring more clarity.
DHHS has a 5-year lease with the owners of the American Hebrew Academy to use its facility at 434 Hobbs Road in Greensboro as a transitional campus for immigrant children awaiting reunification with family members or others in the U.S.
The Greensboro Influx Care Facility was in the process of hiring about 1,500 employees to work at the facility and to provide the required oversight 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.
The property at 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.
Some of those 1,500 employees were contracted by Deployed Services to provide, among other things, the health care, education, case workers, and dormitory monitoring required for the children housed at the facility.
There were about 400 to 500 of those employees who have been housed in hotels near Piedmont Triad International Airport and had been undergoing computer-based training for the facility and had, one employee told WGHP, visited the campus at least once.
But on Friday those employees were summoned in an email from Lirio Gonzalez, the assistant director of Youth Services in Greensboro, to a “mandatory face-to-face meeting” at the Quality Inn at the PTIA and asked to bring any company-issued laptop, charger and phone.
One of those employees told WGHP that some of the workers had traveled from across the U.S. – primarily Texas – and were expecting 4-year contracts because of the length of DHHS’ contract.
The employee said the group being trained were youth care workers and case workers who must be certified and bilingual. They make between $22 and $28 an hour, she said.
This employee, whose name is withheld because of the sensitive nature of this process, remains in Greensboro.
This employee said workers were training to have “all male children” and that this facility was much smaller than most sites where she has worked in similar roles, some of them having around 1,800. She said workers were prepared to work 12.5-hour days and 80 hours a week.
A source familiar with the situation in which Deployed Services has become mired said the contractor reduced pay for most of its staff but with enough hours to continue their benefits. “They do not know how long this will last,” said the source, who also verified that there were around 500 currently affected and that there was an expected ultimate staff of 800.
Background on facility
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.
HHS says the children stay for a few months and receive educational, physical, mental and recreational services. The original announcement said the facility in Greensboro is hiring about 800 people for a variety of positions.
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.
Questions by residents
Residents in neighborhoods surrounding the facility have been nervous and asking questions about the plans for the facility. Skip Alston, the chair of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Nancy Hoffmann, the representative on the Greensboro City Council for District 4, where that property is located, were among a group that met with DHHS employees in July to learn more, but there has been no public questioning of federal employees about the facility.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), whose 6th Congressional District includes that facility, had written a letter to DHHS asking questions on behalf of the public. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) also had sent a letter, as had Rep. Richard Hudson (R-Concord), cosigned by Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance), of the nearby 13th District, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk) of the 5th District and the five other Republicans serving North Carolina in Congress.
None of those officials has supplied any responses to those letters.