Seeking Housing For Immigrant Children, Feds Show Up To Inspect Fully-Booked Resort

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Desperate to find housing for thousands of illegal child immigrants from Central America, federal officials embarked on a wild goose chase Friday when they began inspecting what they believed was an abandoned hotel and resort in New York.

The problem was the 263 room Byblos Niagara Resort and Spa in Grand Island, N.Y. is completely booked through the summer, the Buffalo News reports.

Agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security showed up to the resort without warning Friday morning.

“They were thinking the hotel was abandoned and closed,” the facility’s manager Scott Swagler, told the Buffalo News, adding that “it was a complete shock” that federal agencies might want to use the facility in the first place.

Byblos was once a Holiday Inn but has undergone $4 million in renovations.

“It looks like there’s been a mistake,” the agents said when told that the facility was in use, according to Swagler.

A simple Google search or a phone call could have settled the issue. Byblos’ website indicates that the resort is in operation. A phone call placed by The Daily Caller on Saturday was quickly answered by staff who were taking reservations.

The federal agents told Swagler that they were given the tip about Byblos by Acquest Development, a real estate development company which recently worked on a federal facility in Buffalo.

It was not until Friday afternoon that local officials and members of Congress were made aware that sites in the area were under consideration to house the child immigrants, the Buffalo News reports.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and General Services Administration will be conducting an initial assessment of Lexington Commerce Center in Rochester, NY…and the Byblos Niagara Resort in Grand Island, NY…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,” wrote Fatima Cuevas, deputy assistant secretary for legislation at HHS, where the agency’s Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Refugee Resettlement is coordinating housing across the U.S.

An internet search shows that Acquest Development recently acquired the Lexington Commerce Center site. Formerly owned by Eastman Kodak, Acquest is advertising anywhere from 10,000 to 1,500,000 square feet of space at the facility.

Federal agencies have struggled to find housing for the child immigrants, known as Unaccompanied Children, or UACs. An estimated 52,000 UACs and 39,000 parents with children have been apprehended at the Mexican border since October. Mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the surge has far surpassed normal migration patterns.

In searching for housing for the UACs, federal agencies have hit several roadblocks recently.

On Friday, HHS announced that it was backing off of a plan to house 500 UACs at an abandoned college in Lawrenceville, Virginia. Though the agency had already signed a lease agreement to house the children at the facility, the town’s residents and local law enforcement officials adamantly opposed the plan, forcing HHS to drop it.

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