GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Buses that began arriving this week at the facility that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is opening in Greensboro weren’t delivering immigrant children – but that day may be nearer.
Approximately four chartered tour buses were spotted Friday on the property at 4334 Hobbs Road, the former American Hebrew Academy, as they delivered trainees to the Greensboro Influx Care Facility.
This is the future interim home for unaccompanied immigrant children between the ages of 13 and 17 years old – about 800 at the peak, officials have said – who will wait there until they are united with family members or sponsors in the U.S.
Those children would spend about two to three weeks housed at the facility, and they won’t be allowed off the property, officials have said.
DHHS in early June 2022 leased the facility for 5 years with an option for 5 more, and a staff of about 1,500 employees is being hired to oversee the children on a 24-7 basis.
But hiring and training for those positions had been on “warm” status because of a dispute about contracts, officials have said. Apparently, that dispute has been worked out recently.
Sources familiar with the facility but not authorized to speak about its operations have indicated that Deployed Resources, a contractor with a wide relationship with the federal government, had been chosen to provide security, maintenance and janitorial services.
Deployed Resources is based in Rome, New York, and its website touts a history of relationships with the Federal Emergency Management Administration, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and the National Guard, among others.
This is not to be confused with Deployed Services, another massive contractor based in Tampa, Florida, that works often with such immigrant facilities, providing health care, operation of the residence halls, case workers and educator program employees, in general, the people who would deal more personally with the children.
WGHP’s attempts Friday to reach both companies drew no immediate response. Neither has a media relations department listed on its website, and Deployed Services has not responded to questions asked previously.
DHHS also does not respond immediately to queries about the facility, and individuals involved with its operation are prohibited to speak directly with the public.
Lots of jobs open
Deployed Services last summer had about 400 to 500 employees housed in hotels near Piedmont Triad International Airport, where they had been undergoing computer-based training for the facility, but they were sent home while the security/management contract was worked out after a bidding dispute with DHHS.
More recently Deployed Services has advertised on Indeed for a variety of open positions in Greensboro, although the positions don’t specify the Greensboro Influx Facility or its address. But the listings sound appropriate to the requirements of that facility.
The positions range from a laundry services associate, making as little as $17.60 an hour, to a bilingual IT specialist, who could make as much as $42.40. Among the various positions is a prevention-of-sexual-abuse manager with a salary between $32 and $36 an hour. Language skills are essential.
Some of the positions, such as a security supervisor or safety maintenance specialist, sound like they could be associated with the contract assigned to Deployed Resources, but the listing doesn’t specify that.
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 the children.
The American Hebrew Academy, a 501(c)(3) organization, had been a private boarding school, but its enrollment started to wane before the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to its closure. It lists the Greensboro Global Academy as an educational program.
The property had been for sale for a time before the DHHS arrangement emerged after at least one tour coordinated by Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chair Melvin “Skip” Alston and Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan.
But DHHS has been very quiet about all of this, having held a couple of community briefings for elected leaders only and none with nearby residents or stakeholders. Some of those briefings created new questions.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) and some of her fellow members of Congress have been asking for the past year, especially given the national immigration crisis. Manning, whose 6th District includes the AHA property, for months has been writing letters and making calls to DHHS officials about the level of knowledge that residents are receiving about this facility.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement 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 were from Honduras. The rest were from El Salvador and other countries.
“ORR is legally required to provide for the care and custody of all unaccompanied children (UC) referred by DHS to ORR until they are appropriately and safely placed with a vetted sponsor,” Alston said last summer. “I can only imagine how emotionally and mentally difficult it must be to be a child in a new country, with a new language, to be all alone and separated from the comfort and support of the people you know who love and care about you.”