Administration’s Plan for Immigrant Children: Send Them to Military Bases
According to The Washington Post, the Trump administration is preparing to hold immigrant children in military bases after they are separated from their parents. The information came in an email from the Department of Health and Human Services, which informed the Pentagon that it would soon survey several military sites in Texas and Arkansas for possible use as shelters for young, undocumented immigrants.
The Post reports:
The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody.
The email characterized the site visits as a preliminary assessment. “No decisions have been made at this time,” it states.
An official at HHS confirmed the military site visits, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans are not yet public. The official said that HHS currently has the bed space to hold 10,571 children.
The same HHS official told the Post that the agency’s existing facilities for housing migrant children are already operating at 91 percent capacity.
The administration recently warned that it plans to split up undocumented families caught at the border and potentially prosecute parents, which is expected to increase the number of child immigrants detained in the United States. The New York Times reported last week that President Trump is frustrated by an increase in immigration under his presidency and berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a Cabinet meeting. Nielsen reportedly drafted a resignation letter after the meeting but didn’t submit it.
Trump has announced several plans to deal with what he says is a border problem between the United States and Mexico. In April, he authorized the deployment of National Guard troops to the border to assist immigration officials, after Congress refused to allocate the money needed to build a wall along the border.
If Trump goes ahead with the plan to house children at military bases, he will be following in the footsteps of the Obama administration, which sent more than 7,000 immigrant children to live at military bases in Oklahoma, Texas and California during the 2014 child immigration crisis. During that period, large numbers of children, most of them from Central America, crossed the U.S.-Mexico border unaccompanied by adults.
The separation of immigrant children from their parents has often had dire consequences. Many such children are sent to live with foster parents. However, in Senate testimony in April, an acting assistant secretary of HHS, Steven Wagner, said the government lost track of 1,475 immigrant children after placing them in foster care. In April 2016, The Associated Press reported that over two dozen immigrant children who had been placed in foster care were later subjected to sexual abuse, human trafficking or other abuse.
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.