Two Texas lawmakers wrote President Obama this week to oppose a possible plan to use Fort Hood military base to house unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.
Republican congressmen John Carter and Roger Williams, whose districts both include parts of the sprawling military base, say they wrote the letter after learning the Pentagon has assigned a team to assess the possibility of using it and other bases to house young immigrants.
“We strongly urge your Administration not to house illegal immigrants on any military base,” read the letter, dated Dec. 16. “Furthermore, your Administration should commit to securing the border and focus your efforts on reuniting these children with their families in their native countries.”
Fort Hood, a 215,000-acre base that lies halfway between Austin and Waco, is home to around 50,000 military and civilian personnel. Carter said using it to shelter illegal immigrants is “outrageous.”
“It is outrageous that this administration would even consider using our military installations to shelter illegal immigrants who have crossed our southern border,” Carter said. “President Obama needs to enforce our immigration laws and secure our border, not undermine our military at a time when our country is facing increased threats from radical Islamic terrorists.
Last year, amid a surge of unaccompanied children streaming in from Central America, the Pentagon began housing thousands of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, in Texas, Naval Base Ventura County, in California, and at Fort Sill, in Oklahoma.
More than 10,000 unaccompanied minor children have streamed into the United States over the Mexican border since October 1, the result of unchecked corruption and gang violence in their Central American homelands, and an effort by Mexican drug cartels to diversify into the very lucrative migrant smuggling business.
The Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Refugee Relocation is required to take control of unaccompanied children once they enter the U.S., and the agency is once again being stretched to the limit by a surge that has reached an estimated 10,000 since October.
In a statement, Fort Hood spokesman Tony Rheinlander said it isn’t even up to the Pentagon whether or not the base is used.
“In accordance with the Department of Defense’s approval of a Health and Human Services request for assistance, representatives from HHS are conducting an ongoing assessment of Fort Hood to determine if our installation is suitable for them to temporarily provide shelter for unaccompanied children under their care,” he said. “HHS will make the final determination if they will use Fort Hood for unaccompanied children operations.”
In an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, Williams said Fort Hood "is a military base, not a daycare center," and raised safety concerns of children being on a military base that includes gun ranges. But in the letter to Obama, both lawmakers implied that the real problem is that housing the children is simply not the purpose of Fort Hood or other military bases.
As Members of Congress who represent Fort Hood, one of the largest military installations in the United States, we ask you to reaffirm that our military installations exist to project power around the world and to serve our men and women in uniform and their families – not house illegal immigrants,” they wrote.
“In addition, we ask that (Homeland Security) Secretary Jeh Johnson and (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell meet with us before any action is taken to use Fort Hood as a housing unit for illegal aliens.
Rheinlander said the Department of Defense and HHS will continue to keep local and congressional officials informed throughout this assessment ad selection process.