HHS Asks Pentagon to House Migrant Children at 2 Bases in Texas

Author : ptejengko
Publish Date : 2021-03-24 08:32:37
HHS Asks Pentagon to House Migrant Children at 2 Bases in Texas

The request comes as the Biden administration struggles to accommodate an increase in unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the southern U.S. border.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health and Human Services submitted a formal request to the Pentagon on Tuesday to use two military bases to temporarily house migrant children who are seeking refuge in the U.S.

The move, while not unprecedented, is a notable step in the Biden administration's effort to shelter and care for an influx of unaccompanied migrant minors crossing the southern border that has strained government resources and resulted in grossly overcrowded facilities.

[ READ: Border Crossings by Unaccompanied Migrant Minors Soared in February ]
The request involves the use of a dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio – a sprawling facility that also served a key role in then-President Donald Trump's aggressive border policies – as well as a plot of land at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

Kirby said he didn't know when the department might approve the request, when the migrant children might begin arriving and how many would be sheltered at the facilities. The Pentagon was still performing an analysis of the request Tuesday afternoon hours after receiving it, Kirby said.

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The Defense Department had previously said that government officials were conducting site surveys for potential requests at other installations, including the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Lee, Virginia, roughly 30 miles south of Richmond.

The Pentagon did not previously reveal the government was considering using Fort Bliss or Joint Base San Antonio as such. Kirby said Tuesday that similar site surveys took place there last week.

Prior administrations have previously used military bases to house surges of migrants, particularly when there are too many to house run by the departments of Homeland Security or Health and Human Services, which traditionally manage them. Then-President Barack Obama in 2014 sent roughly 7,500 unaccompanied minors from Central America to military housing at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Naval Base Ventura County, California, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Trump similarly asked the military to find space for as many as 5,000 migrant children in 2019.

Current U.S. policy calls for unaccompanied migrant children to be held briefly in border facilities before being transferred to shelters run through HHS where they stay while officials locate and vet family members or sponsors to take them in. The process can take weeks or, in some cases, months.

[ READ Biden’s Order Aiming to End Use of Private Prisons Excludes Immigrant Detention Facilities ]
Border facilities are not designed to house minors and border agents are not trained to take care of children. By law, migrant minors are not supposed to spend more than 72 hours in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. However, current circumstances have kept some there for far longer, in some cases exceeding 10 days, prompting the Biden administration to scramble in recent weeks to beef up bed space at HHS shelters and transfer migrants to the agency's care more quickly.

HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement said Tuesday that it will open a second temporary influx facility for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The facility will house about 500 unaccompanied minors.

"While ORR has worked to build up its licensed bed capacity to about 13,500 beds, additional capacity is urgently needed to manage both enhanced COVID-19 mitigation strategies and the increasing numbers of [unaccompanied children] referrals from DHS," a spokesperson said Tuesday.

The Biden administration initially reopened a Trump-era shelter in Carrizo Springs last month in one of its first moves to accommodate the rise in unaccompanied migrant children arrivals – kicking off a flurry of criticism from both the right and the left.

Paul D. Shinkman, Senior Writer, National Security

Paul Shinkman is a national security correspondent. He joined U.S. News & World Report in 2012 ...  READ MORE

Claire Hansen, Staff Writer

Claire Hansen is a staff writer who covers immigration, gun policy and marijuana policy, as ...  READ MORE

Tags: military, immigration, immigration reform, HHS, Department of Defense, Pentagon

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health and Human Services submitted a formal request to the Pentagon on Tuesday to use two military bases to temporarily house migrant children who are seeking refuge in the U.S.

The move, while not unprecedented, is a notable step in the Biden administration's effort to shelter and care for an influx of unaccompanied migrant minors crossing the southern border that has strained government resources and resulted in grossly overcrowded facilities.

[ READ: Border Crossings by Unaccompanied Migrant Minors Soared in February ]
The request involves the use of a dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio – a sprawling facility that also served a key role in then-President Donald Trump's aggressive border policies – as well as a plot of land at Fort Bliss near El Paso, Texas, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

Kirby said he didn't know when the department might approve the request, when the migrant children might begin arriving and how many would be sheltered at the facilities. The Pentagon was still performing an analysis of the request Tuesday afternoon hours after receiving it, Kirby said.

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The Defense Department had previously said that government officials were conducting site surveys for potential requests at other installations, including the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Lee, Virginia, roughly 30 miles south of Richmond.

The Pentagon did not previously reveal the government was considering using Fort Bliss or Joint Base San Antonio as such. Kirby said Tuesday that similar site surveys took place there last week.

Prior administrations have previously used military bases to house surges of migrants, particularly when there are too many to house run by the departments of Homeland Security or Health and Human Services, which traditionally manage them. Then-President Barack Obama in 2014 sent roughly 7,500 unaccompanied minors from Central America to military housing at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Naval Base Ventura County, California, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Trump similarly asked the military to find space for as many as 5,000 migrant children in 2019.

Current U.S. policy calls for unaccompanied migrant children to be held briefly in border facilities before being transferred to shelters run through HHS where they stay while officials locate and vet family members or sponsors to take them in. The process can take weeks or, in some cases, months.

[ READ Biden’s Order Aiming to End Use of Private Prisons Excludes Immigrant Detention Facilities ]
Border facilities are not designed to house minors and border agents are not trained to take care of children. By law, migrant minors are not supposed to spend more than 72 hours in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. However, current circumstances have kept some there for far longer, in some cases exceeding 10 days, prompting the Biden administration to scramble in recent weeks to beef up bed space at HHS shelters and transfer migrants to the agency's care more quickly.

HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement said Tuesday that it will open a second temporary influx facility for migrant children in Carrizo Springs, Texas. The facility will house about 500 unaccompanied minors.

"While ORR has worked to build up its licensed bed capacity to about 13,500 beds, additional capacity is urgently needed to manage both enhanced COVID-19 mitigation strategies and the increasing numbers of [unaccompanied children] referrals from DHS," a spokesperson said Tuesday.

The Biden administration initially reopened a Trump-era shelter in Carrizo Springs last month in one of its first moves to accommodate the rise in unaccompanied migrant children arrivals – kicking off a flurry of criticism from both the right and the left.

Paul D. Shinkman, Senior Writer, National Security

Paul Shinkman is a national security correspondent. He joined U.S. News & World Report in 2012 ...  READ MORE

Claire Hansen, Staff Writer

Claire Hansen is a staff writer who covers immigration, gun policy and marijuana policy, as ...  READ MORE

Tags: military, immigration, immigration reform, HHS, Department of Defense, Pentagon



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