Trump administration asks Pentagon to prepare 20,000 beds for immigrant children on military bases

The request comes amid heightened scrutiny of President Donald Trump's immigration policies that have separated some 2,500 children from their parents at the border

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 21 June 2018 22:59 BST
An aerial view of a tent camp set up to house unaccompanied child migrants
An aerial view of a tent camp set up to house unaccompanied child migrants (Getty)

The Trump administration is considering housing child migrants on military bases, and has asked the Department of Defence if it is possible to have 20,000 beds ready as early as July.

The Pentagon told members of Congress that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had asked whether military installations could be used to provide shelter for the migrant children “for occupancy as early as July through 31 December, 2018”.

Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, questioned whether it was logistically possible.

“The Department of Defence has been asked whether it can house 20,000 unaccompanied children between now and the end of the year,” Mr Schumer said. “How will that work? Is it even feasible?”

The Pentagon indicated in its letter to Congress that it still needed to determine if it has the capacity for that sort of a role in the ongoing immigrant crisis in the US. The department would be reimbursed for costs, it explained, as is required under the Economy Act.

The strategy for housing the burgeoning population of immigrant children in federal custody would pull from the playbook of the Obama administration, which housed about 7,000 unaccompanied minors in three military bases in 2014 during a wave of crossings into the US.

The sites would be run by by HHS officials, and contractors hired to support them.

The care provided would include “supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs”, according to the notice.

A Defence Department spokesperson confirmed to The Washington Post that the Pentagon had received the request from HHS, and indicated that the department is reviewing its capabilities.

The news comes on the heels of the disclosure that the Trump administration had separated more than 2,500 children from their parents in the six weeks before President Donald Trump signed an executive order this week that stopped the separations.

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