Pentagon approves HHS request to house migrant children at 2 Texas military bases

At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, the children will remain in an unoccupied dormitory, and at Fort Bliss, temporary housing will be built on vacant lot, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

HHS will have access to the locations “immediately” to prepare to receive the children, and the agency will “maintain custody and responsibility for the welfare and support of these children at all times during the facility,” Kirby said.

The approval comes as the influx of unaccompanied migrant children continues at the southern border. Federal law requires that children detained at the border be turned over to HHS, the agency in charge of their care, within 72 hours.

But amid limitations resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and the accelerating pace of arrivals, administration officials have been racing to find a suitable shelter for unaccompanied minors, turning to convention centers and emergency admission sites to transfer them. US Border Patrol facilities prosecute adults, not babysit.

The Border Patrol detained more than 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children between February 28 and March 20, according to preliminary government data reviewed by CNN, which already dwarfs the number of minors detained for the entire month of February.

As of Sunday, there were 822 children detained at Border Patrol facilities, in prison-like conditions, for more than 10 days, according to documents obtained by CNN. The average time in custody of unaccompanied children continues to be around 130 hours, exceeding the legal limit of 72 hours.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week that President Joe Biden does not believe conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities are acceptable and that the administration is working to get children out of those facilities as soon as possible.

“They are not for children, and that is why he wants to open more shelters and increase and speed up processing at the border,” Psaki told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” on Monday. “And that’s a topic he concentrates on every day.”

Kirby said Wednesday that the bases will begin to house unaccompanied migrant children “as soon as preparations are completed” and insisted that the arrangements “will not adversely affect military training, operations, readiness or other military requirements, including preparation of the National Guard and the Reserve “.

CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.


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