Published May 12th, 2020 at 7:46 PM
A proposal to open a controversial detention center for immigrant boys ages 11-17 at the former Kindred Hospital building at 8701 Troost Ave. has been withdrawn.
Although the project was still on the May 19 City Plan Commission docket as of this morning, an immigrant rights group, Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR), has learned it has been pulled.
Trinidad Raj Molina, a program coordinator for AIRR, got word from city officials that VisionQuest would not be opening a shelter in Kansas City. In the past, the company has been investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice about claims of abuse at its facilities, which prompted action from local immigration advocates.
“I was about to send them my own message today to submit a public testimony, but before I could do that, they (CPC) sent me an email at 1:36 p.m.,” Molina said.
The email read, in part: “(T)he applicant (BID Group) has advised city staff that they wish to dismiss this request… as a result the case will not be heard at Tuesday’s City Plan Commission.”
Kansas City officials confirmed that to be true. “The applicant has request(ed) that it be dismissed, which is synonymous with withdrawn,” said Joseph Rexwinkle, division manager at the City Planning and Development Department.
VisionQuest spokesperson Jeffrey Bender provided the following statement: “No additional shelters are currently funded by (Department of Health and Human Services), due to the need for funds for COVID-19 response.”
The news came as immigrant rights advocates were poised to oppose VisionQuest if its team had proceeded with their original plan. VisionQuest is a for-profit company that has earned roughly $37 million in government contracts for shelters like the one it wanted to open in Kansas City.
AIRR led a petition against the proposal and collaborated with the Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity (MOR2). The petition received over 7,300 signatures.
Lora McDonald, MOR2’s executive director, said when the proposal was first submitted, City Council members were blindsided.
“KC has always pushed back against this,” McDonald said.
For Maite Salazar, who was a vocal supporter of the petition and a congressional candidate, the conclusion of the months-long opposition effort marked “celebration time.”