Desoto County News

Pushback on plans for immigrant children at vacant Harrah’s hotels

Photo: One of the vacant hotel buildings on the former Harrah’s Tunica Casino property in Tunica County. A plan is afoot to house unaccompanied immigrant children there. (Bob Bakken/

There have been different levels of reaction voiced, ranging from concern to near outrage, about the possibility of former Harrah’s Casino hotels being used to house as many as 2,000 unaccompanied migrant children. 

The Harrah’s complex was among the largest facilities around until it closed in June 2014. The casino was torn down but the hotel buildings remain standing. They are vacant and entrances to them are barricaded.  

Nothing about the reports have been publicly announced, but officials at several levels have come out with their opposition to the idea.  

State Rep. Dan Eubanks (R-Walls) spoke about it with Supertalk Mississippi’s Paul Gallo on his radio show earlier in the week.  He told Gallo it’s been on his radar for about two months since he first learned about it, adding the casinos are about 10-15 minutes from his home.  A phone call to his office, followed by a conversation with Rep. Cedric Burnett (D-Tunica), which was then followed by a phone call to the Tunica County Administrator, started to bring this to light.  

“This is not a conspiracy theory, they’re trying to stick them here in Mississippi,” Eubanks told Gallo. 

Burnett has also said the area is prime development that should remain that way.  

Eubanks said the influx with this number of children would be taxing on many areas, including the school systems in Tunica and DeSoto counties.  

“You can’t deny them education, so if you have school-age kids, we have to educate them,” Eubanks said. “There are a whole lot of ramifications to the state and to my area.” 

The Republican said he has made Gov. Tate Reeves aware of the proposal.  

Eubanks told Gallo that he and Burnett learned someone from Cong. Bennie Thompson’s office helped coordinate a potential business deal, but a spokeperson with Thompson’s office refuted that in comments to Mississippi Today.  Thompson, a Democrat, represents the district where the property is located.

The entire conversation between Eubanks and Gallo has been posted on the Dan Eubanks for Mississippi Facebook page.  

Tunica County Sheriff K.C. Hemp has come out saying his county doesn’t have the resources to support the idea.  

United States Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith sent a letter to HHS Deputy Secretary Jeff Hild on Thursday asking for more information about the reports that the Office of Refugee Resettlement is looking for locations for what is called an Influx Care Facility, of ICF, one of which being on the former Harrah’s property.  

Hyde-Smith said in the letter she has received several calls from constituents concerned about the negative economic impact and Tunica County’s inability to accommodate this large of a population. 

You can read Sen. Hyde-Smith’s letter to Hild here.  

Secretary of State Michael Watson also came out in opposition to the idea and said so in a Facebook post.  

Eubanks told DeSoto County News Thursday that he has been made aware that Gov. Tate Reeves and Attorney General Lynn Fitch have been talking with Tunica County leadership about the issue.

What happens next is still to be determined. Tunica County officials were to meet after the Memorial Day holiday and more may be revealed at that time. However, opposition to housing thousands on undocumented children inside a vacated casino hotel indefinitely is now getting a lot of support in the area and the state.