HHS Asks Pentagon To House Migrant Children at Military Facilities

"210317_PX819-H-444" (United States government work) by U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The Department of Health and Human Services is now asking the Pentagon for help to house migrant children at Fort Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas. 

As the number of migrant children at the border rises, the Department of Health and Human Services is now seeking assistance from the Pentagon, asking to house migrant children at Fort Bliss, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. 

Fort Bliss is the second-largest base area in the country. It is located in El Paso near the southern border. 

On Tuesday, Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby said, “I can tell you that the department has received a request for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children.” However, the Pentagon did not disclose how many migrant children could be housed at Fort Bliss and only said they did not have “much more detail.”

Kirby added, “We have just received this request, so I don’t have much more detail than that. We’ll analyze it and evaluate it just like we would any other request for assistance.”

Later in the briefing, Kirby added that the U.S. housed migrants in bases in 2012 and 2017, defending that it is normal for them to support these kinds of requests. 

According to the report, said request from the HHS comes after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra sought help from the city of San Diego to house some of the unaccompanied minors that were apprehended traveling across the border. 

In response to this, San Diego agreed to open its convention center over the weekend to the federal government for use as a temporary shelter. City officials also added that they would support the “federally funded effort by providing vital services to these vulnerable children who came to our country seeking safety.”

According to the city, the convention center will temporarily accommodate unaccompanied migrant children up to 17 years old. 

The administration still has to finalize its plans. However, once the centers are operational, the site will be used approximately for three months. This will give each child an average stay between 30 and 35 days in the center. 

Currently, the U.S. Policy calls for unaccompanied migrant children to be briefly held in border facilities before they’ll be transferred to shelters rung through HHS where they will be staying. At the same time, officials look for and vet family members or sponsors to take them in. This process can take weeks, or in some cases, months. 

Accordingly, border facilities were supposedly not designed to house minors as border officials are not trained to take care of children. According to the U.S. Policy, migrant minors are also not supposed to spend over 72 hours in Customs and Border Protection custody.

However, under the Biden administration, children are being kept for far longer than what was written under the law. In some cases, there are minors who are kept in border facilities for over 10 days, a fact the administration hid from the public and the media. 

These circumstances also prompted the Biden administration to scramble in the recent weeks to try and add more bed space at HHS shelters and immediately transfer migrants, particularly minors, to the agencies.

On Tuesday, the HHS Office of Refugee Settlement also stated that it would open a second influx facility to house migrant children temporarily in Carrizo Springs, Texas. Said facility is intended to house around 500 unaccompanied minors. 

A spokesperson said on Tuesday, “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.”

In addition to this, the Biden administration also reopened a Trump-era shelter in Carrizo Springs last month. this is one of its first moves to accommodate the rising number of unaccompanied migrants crossing the borders. 

The move made by the administration to “house” migrant children at these shelters kicked off a flurry of criticism from both the Democratic and Republican parties.