An upscale hotel will not be used to house illegal immigrant children after all. Due to a vocal outpouring of opposition about the use of millions of taxpayer dollars, the federal government nixed plans to use the Palm Aire Hotel for the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who illegally crossed the Texas border.
The Baptist Child and Family Services (BCFS) has a contact with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to run camps at both Fort Sill and Lackland Air Force Base. The BCFS had a deal to buy the Palm Air Hotel in Weslaco, Texas for $3.8 million. The upscale hotel, complete with a swimming pool and other popular amenities, was built in the 1980s.
A statement by halting plans to buy the Texas hotel for illegal immigrant children by BCFS read:
"This proposal sought to find a solution for providing safe, humane care for the children flooding across the border and overwhelming U.S. Border Patrol and communities. BCFS is thankful to the City of Weslaco for their consideration and support, and is disappointed that misinformation has fueled so much negativity against this effort that its success is likely jeopardized."
Government officials stated the Palm Aire Hotel purchase project had never reached the point of actually submitting a plan to HHS. But one of the current owners of the upscale hotel said a sales agreement with BCFS was in place.
On Wednesday afternoon, just a few hours after Fox News reported that approximately 600 illegal immigrant children between the ages of 12 and 17 could be placed at the Palm Aire, plans were scrapped. The BCFS said that the hotel complex would have been used to offer mental health and medical care, along with recreational and educational programs for the migrant children who crossed illegally into the United States.
The contract to provide such services allegedly totaled about $50 million per year. The estimated cost to house and care for the 60,000 or so illegal immigrants who crossed the Mexican border this year is reportedly about $1,000 per day per individual.
Americans angry that military budgets have been cut, veterans died while waiting for appointments, and pink slips given to soldiers in the field were among the most vocal critics of the illegal immigrant hotel plan. The Palm Aire Hotel is situated on 7 acres and boasts three swimming pools, lighted tennis courts, 10,000 square feet of meeting space, concierge service, and a Jacuzzi. BCSF had reportedly planned to hire 650 workers to staff the hotel housing illegal immigrants. Some of the staffers would have made $45 per hour for their services.
BCFS officials also had this to say about housing the illegal immigrant children:
"The facility also would have allowed for the quick transfer of children in Border Patrol custody in South Texas to a residential child care facility, and then expedited release to their families. The average length of stay was expected to be 15 days. During that time, children would be provided room and board, in addition to basic education, recreational activities, medical and mental health care, case management, and religious services, if they chose to participate. The children would not have attended public school."
An unnamed government source reportedly involved with the Palm Aire Hotel planning said, We are not going to continue with trying to purchase that hotel. It was just too controversial. We should have known better, no matter what the cost."
The Weslaco is among the series of communities situated near McAllen, Texas and the states southern border.