Pentagon agrees to provide space for 20,000 migrant children

Elias Hubbard
June 23, 2018

The Department of Health and Human Services has assessed three bases in Texas and will visit a fourth in Arkansas, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said.

"HHS has requested DOD determine its capabilities to provide up to 20,000 temporary beds for unaccompanied children at DOD installations", the document states.

The memo asked the Pentagon if it would be able to receive as many as 20,000 children "for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018". As required under the Economy Act, the memo said, the Defense Department would be reimbursed for all costs incurred.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday the Pentagon would not lead such a mission but would help if requested.

"Family unity will be maintained for families apprehended crossing the border illegally, and they will be transferred together to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement", the spokesman said in a statement.

"Our department typically has the land resources needed to fulfill a request like this", Davis said, "but we still have to work out the infrastructure needs".

Pressed on the issue, Mattis listed other situations when the military has housed people in need.

'We have housed refugees. "We do whatever is in the best interest of the country".

The U.S. government has been examining for weeks whether it can use military bases to house migrant children.

"Secretary Mattis' guidance has been clear: that the DoD will support our federal partners", White said.

Mattis spoke just before President Trump signed an executive order meant to end family separations at the US southern border, attempting to staunch the controversy over the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal immigration.

The Pentagon won't be housing that group of kids - only those who fall under the umbrella of HHS's "Unaccompanied Alien Children" program.

President Donald Trump ordered federal agencies on Thursday to begin reuniting immigrant families recently separated at the US-Mexico border.

The executive order also says that the Pentagon must "construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law".

Trump could face renewed criticism if thousands of immigrant children are sent to military bases. HHS has assessed four military bases as prospective housing for child migrants.

Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas and Dyess Air Force Base, Goodfellow Air Force Base and Fort Bliss in Texas are the bases that have been looked at as potential housing sites.

Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) and Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the top Democrats on the Senate and House Armed Services committees, wrote a letter to Mattis on Wednesday requesting assurances that members of Congress would have access to any migrant facility established on a military base.

The plan would seemingly have similarities to 2014, when the Obama administration housed about 7,000 unaccompanied children on three military bases.

This story was updated at 5:18 p.m.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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