Inundated by a surge of illegal child immigrants that have been apprehended at the southern U.S. border, the Department of Health and Human Services is searching the country for large, empty facilities to house them.
The latest property up for consideration is a vacant Wal-Mart in Brockport, New York, near Rochester.
HHS will be conducting an “initial assessment” of the facility, according to U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, who announced the plan on Wednesday, according to WHAM.
According to Collins, the federal agency will inspect the store, which has been vacant for seven years, in order to “to determine whether it may be used as a facility for temporarily housing children who have come into the United States from other countries without an adult guardian.”
The Republican Congressman was critical of the plan.
“As I have said before, it is unacceptable the federal government is trying to force the hardworking taxpayers of New York to foot the bill to house undocumented immigrants,” said Collins in a statement.
He blamed President Obama’s immigration policies for the unexpected surge of the minors, called Unaccompanied Children, or UACs. So far this year, Customs and Border Protection has apprehended at least 52,000 UACs, most of whom are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
U.S. immigration policy requires that, rather than sending the children back to their home countries, they be put into deportation proceedings. That involves housing them in HHS facilities while the agency searches for family members or sponsors to take them in while their immigration cases are pending.
According to Collins, HHS is considering at least two other facilities in the state — a former convent in Saratoga County and a business park in Nassau County, the Democrat & Chronicle reported.
The federal agency was embarrassed last week when it sent agents to inspect a facility near Buffalo it was considering for housing UACs. When the agents showed up to inspect the facility, they were informed that it was a fully-functional resort and spa. (RELATED: Feds Inspect Fully-Booked Resort In Immigrant Housing Search)
The Obama administration has received heavy push-back from communities where other UAC housing facilities have been considered. A plan to use the campus of St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia, which closed down last year, was nixed after residents voiced concern for the plan at a community forum attended by HHS officials.
And on Tuesday, a planning commission in Escondido, Cali. voted against a similar plan to house 96 Unaccompanied Children there.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer weighed in on the plan to bring UACs to New York as well, according to WGRZ.
“I will make sure that Homeland Security does not shove any decision down any community’s throat,” he said, adding that the Obama administration needs to “step up its game” in protecting the border while also addressing Central America’s humanitarian crisis.