ORLANDO, Fla. — The location of the Trump administration’s proposed permanent shelter to house unaccompanied immigrant children in Orlando is just one of many problems with the plan, state Democratic lawmakers say.
- HHS letter reveals location of proposed shelter for immigrant children
- Address corresponds to a Travelodge near The Florida Mall in Orlando
- Abandoned, fenced off Blossom Park condo facility is across the street
- RELATED: Feds Considering Central Florida for Migrant Children Shelter
State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D-Orlando) said she learned about the facility through a letter.
“There was no communication for local house members ever beyond the county,” Eskamani said.
According to the letter, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement has inquired about the property on 1850 W. Landstreet Road in Orlando, which is just a mile away from The Florida Mall.
The problem is that the location is a Travelodge, and another state Democrat, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, said in a tweet that managers of the Travelodge were unaware of plans to convert it into a facility to house unaccompanied immigrant children.
Across the street from the Travelodge is the former Blossom Park condominiums, an abandoned building at 1851 W. Landstreet Road. Blossom Park has been plagued by drug problems for years, and Orange County has fenced it off.
According to the letter, HHS wants to house 500 children in the facility, and 500 staff members will monitor the children 24-7, seven days a week, with 167 staff members each working eight-hour shifts.
“It speaks to the secrecy of this administration and how they don’t want to be held accountable. They don’t care about the health and being of these kids," Eskamani said. "We do care, and that’s why we stand against opening a permanent detention center here in Central Florida, and we’ll do everything in our power to make sure it never happens.”
The letter also says the facility will include bedrooms, classrooms, a medical room, a multi-purpose room, dining/food service, administrative and support space. There will also be about two acres of exterior space for the children to play outside.
“Lawmakers don’t even have access to them. I cannot visit these detention centers unannounced,” Eskamani said. “A permanent detention center will only house and endanger children. It will also be a cost of public dollars on water, on energy, on traffic and security.”
In order to repurpose any of the buildings into a shelter, the facility would need to be classified as a "residential care facility," which would require a special-use permit in the C-1 zoning district. The process to do that involves a public hearing before the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the Orange County Board of County Commissioners.
A news conference protesting the proposed children's facility is planned for 12:30 p.m. Monday in downtown Orlando at the Southeast regional offices of Latino Justice.