The Obama administration is eyeing six military bases to potentially house the recent surge of undocumented children from Central America illegally crossing into the U.S. through the southern Mexico border.
A defense official told Fox News the U.S. military has already approved a recommendation by the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services to open Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico near the border with Mexico.
The move by the federal government is an emergency response to what appears to be a second surge of unaccompanied children entering the United States in as many years. In October and November of 2015, 10,588 children entered the U.S. illegally – that is more than double the amount during the same time in 2014, according to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The consideration by the feds to use military bases as shelters is yet another sign the government is worried about another surge of unaccompanied children, similar to 2014, in which an unprecedented 63,000 crossed illegally into the U.S. Just this week, the Department of Homeland Security began deporting Central Americans who have not complied with their deportation orders. Secretary Jeh Johnson has defended the raids as necessary to deter migrants from illegally crossing the border.
The Obama administration is reportedly considering the following military bases to house unaccompanied minors: Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, Naval Support Activity Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts and Travis Air Force Base in California.
An overwhelming majority of the children entering the U.S. illegally come from gang-ravaged countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. By law, these children must be handed to Health and Human Services within 72 hours of being detained. The federal government must take care of them until a relative or sponsor in the U.S. claims them while they await their immigration court proceedings.
The Obama administration used three military bases as emergency shelters in May of 2014 after nearly 20,000 kids entered the U.S. in May and June of that year alone. The bases housed some 7,700 of the 63,000 unaccompanied children from Central America who crossed into the United States alone without their parents in 2014. The average stay in the shelters was 35 days.
Those shelters, including Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, were subsequently shut down later that year because of exorbitant costs and a dramatic decrease in the number of kids crossing the border illegally.
At the time, HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe warned military bases could be reopened as shelters if border crossings spike again.