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    Tunica County votes not to support facility for unaccompanied minors

    By Grant McLaughlin, Mississippi Clarion Ledger,


    The Tunica County Board of Supervisors has decided not to endorse a project that could bring a temporary care facility into the area for unaccompanied migrant children.

    On Thursday, the board voted 3-2 against writing a letter of support for the project to locate an influx care facility at the abandoned Harrah's Casino hotel buildings in Tunica. In total, the complex could temporarily house about 2,000 undocumented children if approved.

    Those facilities are designated through contracts given by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its partner agencies. Currently, the owner, TJM Properties, is working with a private developer to take over.

    According to reporting by WREG-TV station, Shantrell Nicks, a representative for Rapid Deployment, the Alabama-based company hoping to facilitate the project, told supervisors the company was responding to a request for proposal from the federal government.

    She added the project, aimed at housing the unaccompanied minors, would be entirely funded by the federal government and that people would not be moving on and off the property regularly.

    “There won’t be visitors in and out of the site,” Nicks said. “This is a temporary solution to put them in a temporary place outside of tents at the border.”

    Board Member James Dunn, who voted in favor of supporting the project, told the Clarion Ledger he believes the board voted against due to both state and local officials having concerns about the viability of such a facility in the area.

    "They put out a lot of negative information that was transferred to the community and then the community start raising concerns with the elected officials," he said.

    U.S. Sen. Cynde Hyde Smith, R-Brookhaven and Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, as well as the Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hamp, all publicly displayed hesitance to the project. Smith also asked for more information regarding the idea to be provided to the public and herself.

    More on state officials responseSee which former Mississippi casino could house undocumented immigrant children

    The casino and hotel originally opened in the 1990s and was eventually incorporated into Ceasars Entertainment by 2007. The casino later closed due to declining business in 2014 and the casino was demolished in 2015. The property was later sold to TJM Properties.

    Dunn said TJM Properties later reached out to the the board in 2019 for a partnership to find a developer to turn the property into a water park. Part of that deal was taking the property off of local tax rolls until a project was finished to incentivize development.

    However, Dunn said that idea failed to come to fruition due to a lack of financing, and the incentive was rescinded by the board in 2022 and property taxes were due again in 2023.

    Additionally, without further support from the board, Dunn believes those looking to purchase and then operate that facility will have a very difficult time garnering other local groups to come out in favor of the facility and provide financial assistance.

    "I don't know if this will cancel out the project, but any time you file an application for a project, you want as much as community support as possible," Dunn said.

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    Grant McLaughlin covers state government for the Clarion Ledger. He can be reached at or 972-571-2335.

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