WASHINGTON D.C., DC — The fight is just beginning over a property in Takoma.
The site of an international language center is where the Department of Health and Human Services wants to place a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children, according to sources familiar with details of the project.
The nearly 70,000-square-foot building is currently on the market for new tenants based on property listings on Douglas Development’s website.
D.C. Councilman Brandon Todd sent a letter to Douglas Development late Wednesday, asking that they "terminate any action regarding this property,” part of his note read.
Todd sent a similar letter to Dynamic Services Solutions. This month, HHS awarded the Oxon Hill-based company a grant for $20,549,911 to develop a space for 200 migrant children.
According to a statement from HHS, only children who have arrived in the U.S. without a parent will be placed in this D.C. facility.
"When a child, who is not with a parent or legal guardian, is apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities, federal law requires those authorities to send the child to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” HHS said.
While HHS works to find a safe sponsor in the United States -- usually a parent or close relative -- every child receives an individual bed, case management, counseling, access to legal services, medical care, three meals a day plus snacks, private showers, recreation -- including soccer, basketball, movies, arts and crafts, and board games, religious services of their choice and educational services.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser swiftly announced her opposition to the federal government’s plan.
"Washington, D.C., will not be complicit ... in the inhumane practice of detaining migrant children in warehouses," Bowser wrote in a statement. "We have no intention of accepting a new federal facility, least of all one that detains and dehumanizes migrant children."
In response to the push-back, a HHS spokesperson wrote, "Unfortunately, uninformed individuals continue to perpetuate erroneous and irresponsible stories which only hinder our ability to run this program successfully and unify children with their parents, family member or other suitable sponsor."
Immigration advocates are asking the federal government to expedite the process of reuniting migrant children with family members in the U.S.
"Integrate them into society so they can have a better life," George Escobar said.
Escobar works for CASA, which provides services to many immigrants.
According to HHS, the system-wide length of care in shelters is 45 days, down from a recent high of 93 days late last year.
A D.C. government agency will oversee the final approval process of this shelter’s license.