DOD officials are discussing the possibility of housing additional unaccompanied children who have crossed the nation’s southern border illegally, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t put an exact number on it, because that’s still in discussion,” Kirby told reporters.
Three installations already are housing unaccompanied children who are part of an influx of thousands of migrants from Central America — Fort Sill, Okla.; Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas; and Naval Base Ventura, Port Hueneme, Calif. Fort Sill is housing more than 1,100 immigrant children. Currently, DOD facilities can accommodate 2,375 children, reported the Defense Media Activity.
The facilities being used are excess to the military’s needs, Kirby said. “We’re providing access to certain facilities that were already vacant and not being used and are, therefore, available, and in the first three cases are relatively close to the border itself,” he said.
DOD’s original agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) placed a 120-day cap on how long the children could stay at the three military installations. Lackland has housed the children for about two months; Kirby would not speculate on whether that cap will be extended.
HHS will reimburse DOD for the facilities, he said.
Last month, Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment, visited Fort Sill to get a first-hand look at how the post is handling its new high-profile responsibility, reported Army public affairs.
“Humanitarian assistance is one of the missions of the Army. This is a good mission to have here and it’s a good use of an underutilized structure that was available,” said Hammack, who was accompanied by Lt. Gen. David Halverson, assistant chief of staff for installation management and commanding general of Installation Management Command.