For the second time in less than two years, the Obama administration is considering using military installations to house unaccompanied children who have crossed the nation’s southern border illegally, according to lawmakers.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked for a total of 5,000 beds at military facilities to meet an increase in demand, said DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson. HHS, which would be responsible for overseeing and funding the operation, is considering six installations to house the minors.
“They’ll have the facility from us, but they’re going to staff it,” Crosson told the Grand Forks Herald.
Such a move would mark a reprise of the use of the military’s excess facilities to address an influx of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America. Three installations — Fort Sill, Okla.; Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas; and Naval Base Ventura, Port Hueneme, Calif. — housed a total of 7,700 immigrant children over several months in 2014.
Last week, the Alamogordo Daily News reported that Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., to provide temporary housing for up to 400 refugee children from Central America beginning in January. The children will be housed in what used to be the 4th Space Surveillance Squadron’s building at Holloman. HHS already has conducted a survey of the building and verified it would be suitable, according to the story.
The federal government also is conducting surveys at Grand Forks AFB, N.D., and Fort Hood, Texas, to determine if facilities there are appropriate to house unaccompanied children. Federal lawmakers at both of those locations are opposing their use.
“I don’t think it’s the way, humanely, to deal with unaccompanied children from Central America is to put them on a military base,” Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) told the Grand Forks Herald last Wednesday. “The second thing is, it’s an inappropriate use of a military base,” he said.
Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) last month wrote President Obama and DOD “urging the Obama administration not to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied alien children at any U.S. military installation, including Fort Hood.” The letter also was signed by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), whose district includes a portion of the post, reported the Killeen Daily Herald.
“While housing these unaccompanied minors may be a challenge for you, seeking support from military bases when their resources have already been stretched thin is unacceptable,” the letter stated.