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Proposal to house migrant minors in...

Proposal to house migrant minors in Tunica prompts opposition from state, local officials

By: Frank Corder - May 28, 2024

(Image from Brent Wheeler/YouTube - Tunica Mississippi - The Abandoned Grand Casino property)

  • Governor’s office says Reeves “will use every tool at his disposal to prevent Biden’s border crisis from impacting our state.”

Governor Tate Reeves’ office has been in contact with federal authorities regarding a proposal to house unaccompanied migrant minors in former casino hotels in north Mississippi that have sat vacant since 2014.

“The Governor’s Office is aware of these reported instances and is in contact with the proper government authorities,” Deputy Chief of Staff Cory Custer told Magnolia Tribune. “Governor Reeves remains committed to ensuring the safety of Mississippians and will use every tool at his disposal to prevent Biden’s border crisis from impacting our state.”

Custer went on to say the Republican Governor “will do everything in his power to ensure that Joe Biden is unable to send any illegal alien into the state of Mississippi.”

The Governor’s office did not specify which authorities have been contacted.

Reports emerged last week that the vacant hotel property in Tunica once the site of a Harrah’s casino might be sold to another private developer looking to turn the property into an “influx care facility” for as many as 2,000 migrant children under the age of 17. The Tunica County Board of Supervisors reportedly discussed the matter in executive session. Local officials have not voiced support for the proposal.

State. Rep. Cedric Burnett

State Rep. Cedric Burnett (D) opposed the plan after having been approached for support. He told WREG the move would not benefit the area or the state.

“I think if I located, I guess, immigrants at that location it would not benefit Tunica, it would not benefit the casinos, it would not benefit the state of Mississippi,” Rep. Burnett said. “I think that location should be used to compliment the gaming industry. You know, Tunica is a tourism town. we depend on gaming.”

While the area has seen a decline in gaming activity in recent years, according to the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association’s 2023 annual report, the north Mississippi/Tunica area still supports 7 casinos with over 3,000 employees. There are also more than 3,000 hotel rooms in the Tunica area operated by over 300 workers.

Sheriff K.C. Hamp

Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp (D) raised concerns over the lack of a local hospital and the potential language barrier his officers will face should the migrant children be housed on the property.

“Patients have to be taken to hospitals in DeSoto, Tate, Coahoma County along with area hospitals in Memphis, Tennessee,” Sheriff Hamp told WREG, adding that he needs more time to prepare his staff for the massive language barrier.

The proposal is part of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s consideration of an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity contract with the Department of Interior for the housing of migrants.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking for more information on the proposal related to the Tunica property. She stated that such a “resettlement project” has caused concerns among people in the area.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith

“Constituents contacting me are deeply troubled about the potential negative economic impact that such a resettlement project would have on the local communities and the costs that state and local government agencies would have to bear to accommodate such a population,” said Senator Hyde-Smith. “It is unclear at this point if Tunica, Mississippi, is able, willing, and prepared to manage such an influx.”

Senator Hyde-Smith went on to say that as she understands, proposals continue to be submitted for consideration to become designated as an “Influx Care Facility” with a deadline of summer of 2024.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: