A report by the Washington Post last week indicates that the Administration is preparing to use of military bases to hold immigrant children who are either unaccompanied minors or are being split apart from their families.
The Post obtained an email notification sent to Pentagon staff. HHS will make visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children. The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents.
Just two weeks ago White House Chief of Staff John Kelley, gave an interview saying that immigrants “they are not bad people, “….they are also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States input our modern society…” and went on to defend the separation of children from their parents telling National Public Radio (NPR), “The children will be taken care of—put into foster care or whatever.”
The Washington Post report from May 16, reported that the e-mail communications indicated that no final decisions had been made. In response to the report, the Administration for Children and Families said its programs require “routinely evaluating the needs and capacity of an existing network of approximately 100 shelters in 14 states. Additional properties with existing infrastructure are routinely being identified and evaluated by federal agencies as potential locations for temporary sheltering.,”
Children held in HHS custody spend an average of 45 days in the government’s care, the HHS official said, and they are provided with educational and recreational opportunities. The agency conducts background checks on potential sponsors for the minors, and in 85 percent of cases the children are released to a parent or other adult relative already present in the United States, the official said.”
The action is not without irony. The Family First Act reforms child welfare and foster care law by creating a heavy emphasis on moving away from placing children into institutional care without strict review and oversight. The use of military bases to hold immigrant children is not without precedent. At the peak of the 2014 child-immigration crisis, the Obama administration used bases in Oklahoma, Texas and California to house more than 7,000 children over a period of several months. Critics of the family-separation practices denounce the practice as heartless, saying it inflicts additional trauma on families fleeing from Central America’s bloody gang wars.