ALEXANDRIA,VA- Alexandria recently joined the chorus of area localities against a formal U.S. government notification to explore spaces for detention centers for unaccompanied alien children from South America. Mayor Justin Wilson responded to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a letter on Aug. 8 by stating that such detention facilities run contrary to the values of the city.
“Please be advised that the City of Alexandria, Virginia has no interest in hosting such a shelter or being part of any ‘Exploratory Assessment,’” Wilson wrote in the letter. “Our City values every resident or visitor regardless of their immigration status. We have adopted numerous resolutions and policies which outline our commitment to people from all walks of life, and our intent to provide them with the respect, safety and security they are entitled to receive… Unfortunately, the Federal Government’s current treatment of immigrant families is in direct conflict with our community’s values. Accordingly, we want to part of this process.”
The regional director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement in HHS’s Administration for Children and Families wrote a letter to Wilson on July 29 notifying the city of their search for shelter locations. The agency said that it was also looking at vacant properties in Central Florida and Los Angeles to lease for future space. The General Services Administration also released a notice in August requesting applications for 110,000 square feet of space for a shelter to house up to 440 unaccompanied migrant children.
“Due to the crisis on the southern border, ORR has seen a dramatic increase in referrals of UAC [unaccompanied minors] from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security this Fiscal Year and continues to operate in emergency influx mode,” the letter states. “As of June 2019 (FY19-YTD), DHS has referred over 58,500 UAC to ORR, an increase of over 57 percent from the same time period in FY 2018.”
According to Alexandria spokesman Craig Fifer, the city has no official role or authority in the selection process. Still, Wilson’s refusal for the city to participate aligns Alexandria with other opposing localities, including Washington, D.C. and Fairfax County.