Magnolia Tribune

Proposed Tunica development to house unaccompanied minors fails to gain support

Learn more about Rapid Deployment, the company at the center of the proposed migrant minor project.

By: Frank Corder

Tunica County Supervisors voted 3-2 on Thursday against supporting a proposal to place an “influx care facility” for unaccompanied migrant children under the age of 17 on the site of a former Harrah’s casino property.

A representative for Rapid Deployment, the company seeking to bring in the influx care facility, told Supervisors they were responding to a request for proposal from the federal government. Shantrell Nicks said the project, aimed at housing the unaccompanied minors, would be entirely funded by the federal government.

Nicks called the project a “humanity effort” that the developers thought “could save the federal government money” by assisting children who have crossed the border into the United States while also using a site that has been vacant for over 10 years.

She said the site would be self-contained and the minors would not leave the property.

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

Nicks told the county officials that the facility would have maxed out at 250 minors.

You can watch the Tunica Board of Supervisors meeting here.

Republicans and Democrats alike on the local and state level have voiced opposition to the Tunica proposal since it was made known, including Governor Tate Reeves’ office, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, and state lawmakers.

The local vote comes after the public was made aware of the proposal over the last week. However, the name of the organization in question had been withheld.

Who is Rapid Deployment?

According to GovTribe, a federal contract and grant aggregator, Rapid Development is a for-profit, Mobile, Alabama-based corporation that has been awarded multiple federal contracts to provide emergency response support services and contingency capabilities to government agencies. The company has worked with Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security, Department of Defense and others.

“Rapid Deployment Inc. holds several major indefinite-delivery vehicle awards enabling its broad emergency preparedness and response mission sets,” GovTribe notes. “This includes an $834 million single-award IDIQ and BPA from HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response for domestic and international Emergency Response Support Services, a $75 billion single-award IDIQ from HHS’s Administration for Children and Families for rapid deployment and wrap-around services supporting unaccompanied children programs, and a $89 million single-award IDV issued by the Department of the Army for COVID-related temporary lodging, food, transportation, and logistics for Navy and Marine Corps operations.”

It’s also noted that the company furnished COVID-response services such as lodging, food, and transportation to Department of the Navy fleets in Virginia, Florida, and Mississippi.

According to the El Paso Times, Rapid Deployment was the contractor at the Fort Bliss ICF site, which was activated in March 2021 but is now closed. The El Paso Times noted in September 2021 that the contract there was extended and modified numerous times, skyrocketing to more than $1.5 billion by December 2021.

Rapid Deployment has received nearly $3.6 billion in government contracts since Fiscal Year 2020, per, the open data source for federal spending information.

About the ICF RFP

As previously reported by Magnolia Tribune, a U.S. Health & Human Services Performance Work Statement updated on May 20, 2024, was amended to include Mississippi as one of 16 states where influx care facilities (ICF) would be considered going forward.

The document, essentially a request for proposal, provided guidance for owners of properties wishing to be designated as an ICF in the unaccompanied migrant minor program. It included site requirements for everything from beds to recreation and education areas to dining and medical facilities and provisions for clothing and transportation.

Site locations were to meet the following general guidelines:
•  State children’s licensing is allowable
•  Within 30 miles from a certified pediatric facility
•  Within 100 miles of a primary large or medium hub airport
•  Meets local zoning requirements
•  Road access for tractor trailers and large passenger buses
•  Not within a minimum of 10 miles of a hazardous waste or contamination site
•  In a county or city populated with no less than 2% Spanish-speaking people
•  Buildings and outdoor recreation areas outside of the 100/500-year Flood Plain
•  No adverse environmental, historic or preservation impacts
•  Relative moderate or below natural hazard risk

For more information on the ICF program, the rise in unaccompanied minor entries into the U.S., the Performance Work Statement, and the efforts of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, click here.