The Pentagon has agreed to provide housing for up to 20,000 migrant children on military bases as early as July and continuing through the end of 2018. In a memo obtained by The Washington Post and sent to lawmakers Wednesday, care provided by Health and Human Services (HHS) employees or contractors will include “supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs.” Fort Bliss, Goodfellow Air Force Base, Dyess Air Force Base, and Little Rock Air Force Base are believed to be under consideration as possible sites for the housing. The arrangement was made at the request of the HHS and has been confirmed by Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a military spokesman. The Defense Department will be reimbursed for all costs incurred as required by law.
President Trump also signed an executive order Wednesday that reversed his administration’s controversial policy to forcibly separate children from their parents when they cross the border. In that order, the president instructed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to use any legal means to provide Homeland Security Secretary Kirsjen Nielsen with “any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families.” It also said that, if needed, the Defense Department was to take legal steps to construct new facilities for the same purpose. Secretary Mattis indicated that the Defense Department has previously provided migrant housing on military bases for a variety of reasons.
“We have housed refugees. We have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country.”
In recent weeks, members of Congress have been refused entry to detention centers where migrant children are being held. They sought assurance that would not be the case with the recently announced housing arrangement through a letter to Mattis. There’s no news of a response to that request yet.
The secretary of defense has approved the provision of 21 military attorneys with criminal-trial experience to the Justice Department for the purpose of providing assistance in dealing with the large influx of cases resulting from immigration at the southern border of the U.S. They will serve in this role for 179 days. Mattis described the focus of these attorneys as “misdemeanor improper entry and felony illegal reentry cases.”
ABC News reports that Secretary Mattis has signed off on as many as 4,000 National Guard troops to assist with securing the border dividing Mexico and the U.S. That’s roughly double the number of troops from Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas National Guards that are currently stationed there.