GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – We know there is going to be as meeting involving area and federal officials about what they now are calling the Greensboro Piedmont Influx Care Facility for immigrant children, we just don’t know when and where it’s going to be an who will be invited to attend.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Friday in an email to WGHP that it is planning a meeting with “community stakeholders,” but that was about the extent of the hard details.

HHS announced last month it had leased the former American Hebrew Academy on Hobbs Road as a place where immigrant children alone or separated from their parents would be housed temporarily.

HHS is paying nearly $50 million for 5 years – with a 5-year option – to lease the 100, gated acres at 4334 Hobbs Road. A U.S. government spending report shows a $49,758,419.44 contract that began on June 9 and ends on July 8, 2027.

That facility includes 31 buildings of 412,712 square feet, an $18 million athletic center and natatorium, a variety of athletic fields and even a 22-acre lake.

American Hebrew Academy

This campus would be used to provide housing, classrooms and recreational facilities for children who are unaccompanied or who are waiting for family members and sponsors.

The email to WGHP reiterated previous announcements about the Office of Refugee Resettlement and its legal obligation to care for all unaccompanied children referred by the Department of Homeland Security until they are reunited with their parents, a family member or some other “vetted sponsor.” 

 “In the spirit of collaboration,” the email said, “HHS will be hosting an informational meeting for elected officials and community stakeholders. … This meeting will serve as an opportunity for ORR to share information on the unaccompanied children (UC) program, provide details on the new site, and answer any questions from community stakeholders.”

Who is invited?

Because HHS didn’t specify how it defined those groups of “leaders” and “stakeholders,” WGHP reached out to various officials to ascertain those details.

William Scarborough, who represents the board of the AHA, said in an email that he knew that these meetings would be on AHA’s campus, but he and others there would not be participating.

“We are the host only and are not included in the invitations,” he said. “I believe this is by-invitation-only event. AHA staff will not be attending.”

A representative of U.S. Rep Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), in whose district the campus is located, said she had not been invited to the meeting.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and a spokesperson for Guilford County did not respond on Friday to emails with questions about the meeting.

Some residents have asked when they might be able to ask questions at a public meeting, but there has been no formal indication that such an event is planned.

ORR’s 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.

HHS says the children stay for a few months and receive educational, physical, mental and recreational services. 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.