Tuesday, May 21, 2019

HHS requested DOD support to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied children

Yesterday Pentagon officials confirmed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked the Department of Defense (DOD) for space to house up to 5,000 immigrant children through the end of the fiscal year.

HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan “requested DOD support to identify space to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied alien children on DOD installations, if needed, through September 30, 2019,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said in a statement. Davis added that the Pentagon “will work with the military services to identify potential locations for such support and will work with HHS to assess any DOD facilities or suitable DOD land for potential use to provide temporary shelter for unaccompanied alien children.”

Should HHS determine it is necessary to use Pentagon facilities or land, the department will submit an additional request to the DOD. The move, first reported by The Washington Times, also includes a plan to transfer almost $400 million to pay to house the children, according to the outlet.

HHS is the federal agency responsible for unaccompanied children until an adult relative claims them. The agency currently holds about 11,500 such minors at government detention and processing centers in the United States, according to Time.

The Pentagon confirmed the request a day after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen appeared for a tense hearing on Capitol Hill to discuss the administration’s policies at the border. The request also came the same day the government released data that showed a spike in apprehensions and denials of people attempting to enter the United States in February.

It is not yet known where the Pentagon would house the migrant children should officials agree to fill the HHS request but using military bases to house minors is not unprecedented. The Obama administration in 2014 used Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California; and Fort Sill in Oklahoma to house roughly 7,500 unaccompanied minors from Central America. Those shelters closed after four months.

THE HILL