The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is no longer looking to use the former Ouachita Job Corps facility near Hot Springs as a temporary shelter for migrant children, according to a news release.
The vacant, federally owned site in Royal was previously identified by the department as a potential location to house unaccompanied Central American children apprehended at the U.S. border, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The Arkansas National Guard had plans to use the space to expand its program targeting at-risk youths, but the state agency said it is several months away from making that happen, the paper reported. That left room for the federal health department to consider using the facility as a shelter for unaccompanied youths in the interim.
Those plans are no longer in the works as of Wednesday, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman’s office.
The congressman said he received an email from Barbara Pisaro Clark, an official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, saying, “Upon further review of the facilities, resources available and need, HHS is no longer considering the site for use as a temporary shelter at this time.”
Westerman applauded the decision in a written statement, saying he is “pleased the Department of Health and Human Services listened to the concerns of Garland County residents and local officials.”
“This plan by the Obama Administration was ill-conceived and did not take seriously the protests of residents, myself included. I thank my friend, Secretary Tom Price, for his quick action to stop use of this site as a shelter for unaccompanied minors,” the congressman added.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton also praised the move. "This decision will help keep Arkansas families safe, and now they can use this facility for the betterment of their community,” he said.
Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.