HHS Looking Into Warehouses for Child Immigrants

HHS Looking Into Warehouses for Child Immigrants

HHS Looking Into Warehouses for Child Immigrants

Detainees walk in a line at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility, Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Brownsville. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Nielsen said her department was not taking children from parents as a way to deter illegal immigration.

The Trump administration is considering housing children of illegal immigrants who cross the US border alone or get separated from their parents at military bases in the United States.

According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability for child shelters.

The bases would be reportedly used as shelters for minors whoa arrive at the border without an adult or who have been separated from their families by the government. The email read in part, "No decisions have been made at this time".

The same HHS official told the Post that the agency's existing facilities for housing migrant children are already operating at 91 percent capacity. In 2014, Texas officials appealed to the Obama administration to secure the U.S. -Mexico border as waves of illegal immigrant children overwhelmed the system, with one lawmaker saying U.S. military bases effectively have been transformed into camps to handle the influx. The official said DHS has not provided projections for how many additional children to expect.

But an uptick in Border Patrol arrests through March and April has had President Donald Trump upset with his secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, over the apparent increase in immigration. He has ordered her to "close" the border and cut off the migration flows, which typically increase in spring with seasonal demand for rural labor.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said the government will file criminal charges against immigrants who try to cross the border with adults being held in immigration jails and children will be sent in foster care. The Washington Post reported that, aside from being held on military bases, some of the separated children could end up in foster care.

"If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law", Sessions said in a speech last week, adding that "if you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally".

By separating parents and children and filing illegal entry charges against the adults, officials hope to create a deterrent for potential border jumpers. "It's not our fault that somebody does that".

Children held in HHS custody spend an average of 45 days in the government's care, the HHS official said, and they are provided with educational and recreational opportunities.

Although Trump administration officials have not released statistics, The New York Times found that between October 2017 and April 2018, over 700 undocumented children who entered the United States were subsequently separated from their parents by immigration officials.

However, it is not the first time military bases will be used to hold immigrant children.

It's not clear whether the troops could be assigned to the bases where children will be sheltered. Three of the bases are in Texas - the Army's Fort Bliss, Goodfellow Air Force Base and Dyess Air Force Base.

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