With communities across the country pushing back on plans to locate young illegal immigrants in their area, the federal government is looking towards military bases to house the thousands of children streaming across America’s southwestern border.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday it was no longer considering a Federal Emergency Management Agency facility in Anniston as a temporary housing location for undocumented children. On the same day, the Department of Defense announced a fourth military base will be opened as a shelter site.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
The Pentagon has offered Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, according to a report in Military.com. The base is home to a former summer camp which may be used as a housing location for as many as 600 children.
“We have offered this up to the Department of Health and Human Services to house the children while the Justice Department decides their fate,” Warren said. “Those kids need a place to sleep.”
Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California are currently housing as many as 2,572 children. The Military.com report said HHS has leased housing on the three bases for 120 days with an option to renew if needed.
Figures from Customs and Border Protection show 52,193 unaccompanied children age 17 and below – the vast majority from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have been apprehended at the southwestern border from last Oct. 1 through June 15. The cost for caring for the children is about $252 a day.
The total cost of care is expected to top $2 billion this year and will be covered through HHS.