The Department of Defense plans on holding about 20,000 migrant children on military bases across the country as the Trump administration ramps up border enforcement, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Pentagon officials notified lawmakers on Wednesday night that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked whether beds could be provided for children at installations “for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018.” The Obama administration did something similar in 2014, when it housed more than 7,000 migrant children on bases across the country.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to start detaining families together while prosecuting all people who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump’s order requires federal authorities to detain families together while being prosecuted rather than operating under current guidelines that require separation.
The order also directed Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to “take all legally available measures” to provide Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families.” He dismissed concerns about housing migrants.
“We have housed refugees,” he told reporters. “We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country.” (RELATED: Trump On Immigration: ‘We Want People To Come In Through Merit,’ Not Blind Luck)
Representatives from HHS visited three bases in Texas — Fort Bliss, Dyess Air Force Base and Goodfellow Air Force Base — before Trump wrote the executive order to review their facilities for suitability, military spokesman Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis told reporters. Former President Barack Obama employed a similar program in 2014.
The Obama administration cobbled together temporary centers at three military bases in Oklahoma, Texas and Ventura County, California.
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