TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Thousands of undocumented migrant children are being detained at the southern border. As facilities grow more crowded, hundreds of those children could be sent to parts of Central Florida or the Bay Area.
The Department of Health and Human Services is searching for existing vacant properties with around 100,000 square feet that could be leased as a permanent detention center for 500 unaccompanied migrant children. The boundary of the search area stretches from Orlando to portions of Polk, Pasco, Hernando, and Lake counties.
Monday, a group of Democratic lawmakers in Orlando promised to fight it in any way they can.
"Through zoning and...through the budget," said Rep. Darren Soto. "But it will take a while."
In Tampa, Governor Ron DeSantis claimed he knows very little about the plan.
"This is all done with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They pick sites so it's just as if you as a business wanted to lease or buy someplace or whatever, and then they operate the facility and the state does not get involved in that at all," DeSantis said.
City of Lakeland Director of Communications Kevin Cook said in a statement, in part, "I'm not sure if we have anything in that Eaton Park (listed by GSA as southern boundary in description) area that even meets the criteria. It is the city's stance to not discuss 'what ifs' and speculation so we will not be making any comment at this time."
According to Polk County Commission Chair George Lindsay, "If the proposed location has an existing land use designation that allows such a facility then the landowners can proceed without prior approval by the county. If the land use is not permissive for their intended use they will have to follow the land development code process, which may require a public hearing. If so, the application will be judged on its merits."
Whatever happens next, Republican lawmaker Scott Plakon said it is up to the federal government.
"Congress has created this problem and Congress needs to solve it so as a state we'll do what we can to accommodate whatever their solution is," said Rep. Plakon.
HHS is also considering locations in Virginia in the Los Angeles area. As far as a timeline, offers are due in October and the facility could be occupied by November of 2020.