US to use Army base in Oklahoma to shelter migrant children
LAWTON, Okla. – The federal government will be opening a facility at an Army base in Oklahoma to house migrant children and is considered a customs port in southern New Mexico as another option as existing shelters are overwhelmed.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement said Tuesday it’s dealing with a dramatic spike in the number of children crossing the border without parents. The facility at Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma, would be capable of holding 1,400 kids.
“In 2014, our nation saw a large increase of people crossing the southern border. As a result, President Obama declared a ‘humanitarian crisis’ that required Ft. Sill to house Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs),” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford.”Five years later, hundreds of thousands of UACs are illegally crossing into the US in unprecedented numbers. This is further proof that the crisis at the border needs Congress’ immediate attention to address the growing humanitarian crisis and to fix the loopholes in our nation’s immigration process. The President has requested an additional $4.5 billion this year on top of the $1.3 billion already spent just to care for UACs on our southern border. When President Obama’s Administration used Ft. Sill to house UACs, I toured the facility to see the safe environment provided for unaccompanied minors, but I was frustrated by President Obama’s lack of engagement in the problem. We must work with Mexico and fix our own legal loopholes to solve the underlying issues.”
“The humanitarian crisis at our southern border continues to worsen by the day. In May alone, there were 144,000 migrants seeking entry – including far more families and children than ever before,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Cole. “This surge of migrants is overwhelming our usual facilities and resources, including the capacity for housing and caring for thousands of vulnerable unaccompanied children arriving each month. While the announced use of Fort Sill as a shelter for these children is only temporary, it certainly highlights the dire need for a permanent solution to manage the border crisis.
“During this emergency, I fully support HHS using Fort Sill to again house these children, as was done in 2014 during the Obama Administration. I will be monitoring the situation closely in the days ahead and working hand in hand with my colleagues in the Oklahoma delegation to ensure things go smoothly at Fort Sill. I have every confidence in those involved and tasked with the challenging job ahead, but I also have no doubt that our leaders at Fort Sill as well as local officials and the Lawton community will be welcoming and supportive. We know we can face this situation successfully and compassionately because we have already done so once before,” Cole concluded.
“We should end the practice of family separation immediately. Families are coming to the US to escape violence and danger in their home countries. These are parents trying to keep their children safe from violence. We must ensure our nation’s security and we must also uphold the highest standards of humane treatment – especially for unaccompanied children. I appreciate everything the servicemembers at Fort Still will be doing to achieve both of these goals during this mission. We need comprehensive immigration reform, including increased support for our immigration courts,” U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn said.
Bases in Georgia and Montana were passed over, but officials also are weighing the possibility of establishing an emergency shelter at New Mexico’s Santa Teresa port of entry.
Under fire for the death of two children who went through the agency’s shelters, the agency says it must set up new facilities to accommodate new arrivals.