- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2019

D.C. officials are speaking out against the federal government’s plans to construct a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in the District.

“Washington, DC will not be complicit in the inhumane practice of detaining migrant children in warehouses,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said in a written statement. “The Trump Administration must do everything in its power to reunite families and, in cases where they cannot, work with trusted social services agencies to support children in a manner that you would expect from a nation as prosperous as ours.”

Dynamic Services Solutions, a federal contractor, was awarded a $20.5 million grant to develop a shelter for “unaccompanied alien children” in the District, according to an email from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services‘ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

The proposed shelter would have a maximum capacity of 200 beds and would house girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 17, according to the ACF. No one will be placed in the shelter until it is licensed by the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which also will determine the facility’s final capacity.

The application for the license was not flat-out rejected but is pending, according a report by The Washington Post.

D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau said she would “gladly” introduce emergency legislation that would prevent such a shelter.

“I oppose the licensing of a large shelter for unaccompanied children, which does not meet the standard of care that we have upheld for many years here in the District,” said the Ward 1 Democrat.

In her statement, Miss Bowser referred to the city’s recent closure of a family homeless shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital site.

“We just recently closed a shelter that was too big to succeed because we know that such impersonal spaces are not what our most vulnerable families and children need,” the Democratic mayor said. “We have no intention of accepting a new federal facility, least of all one that detains and dehumanizes migrant children.”

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson called the federal government’s policy of separating families “horrific.”

“The government should not be tearing families apart,” said Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “Rather than focus on where a facility should be, let’s talk about how these kids got to be separated from their parents.”

Council member Bradon Todd, Ward 4 Democrat, said he was “shocked and appalled” to learn that the proposed shelter is to be built on a private property in the Northwest neighborhood of Takoma.

“We’ve watched this inhumanity play our at out southern border and across the country where children are being forcibly separated from their families and put in cages,” Mr. Todd said. “But now it has hit our community — our home — and I refuse to stand idly by while the Trump administration recklessly puts children in danger leaving irreparable, lasting trauma.”

The HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) said it treats children in its care with “dignity and respect,” and works hard to deliver services in “compassionate and organized” manner.

“Unfortunately, uninformed individuals continue to perpetuate erroneous and irresponsible stories which only hinder our ability to run this program successfully and unify children with their parents, family member or other suitable sponsor,” the agency said in an email.

ORR operates 170 facilities and programs in 23 states; there are about 8,100 unaccompanied migrant children in HHS care.

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