Despite fierce opposition, the Obama administration is working to utilize six active U.S. military bases to house illegal alien minors. These are known as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) in the jargon used by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security. These minors, who are mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, entered the country illegally over the last two years, overwhelming local charities and governments along the U.S./Mexico border.
Many have already been relocated as far away as central Michigan, where residents of Vassar – a small agricultural town – came out to protest the locating of minor aliens in a facility designed for troubled children. An aircraft hangar at Fort Bliss TX was used to process the migrants. Others utilized were: Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio TX; Ventura County Naval Base, California; and Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma. The housing of the illegal aliens came under scrutiny since the military installations were poorly equipped to handle the deluge of people and had inadequate facilities. The Obama administration was criticized for not enforcing immigration law along the border, thus admitting thousands of minors and adults.
The Obama administration, however, has since resurrected its desire to house UACs at active military facilities. When the Department of Defense notified federal lawmakers of the move, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) sprang into action. Roby, as well as her Congressional colleagues, received an email notice from Matthew Rhoades – a legislative policy advisor to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter – that six military facilities are being considered this month and February as possible holding centers. According to the email, these facilities would be used “as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children.”
Among the installations:
Tyndall Airforce Base, Florida
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota
Naval Support Facility, Pennsylvania
Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts
Travis Air Force Base, California
According to the Department of Defense, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is “expanding its capacity to provide shelter for the current influx of Unaccompanied Children at the U.S. Southern Border.” Increasing the level of capacity enables the ORR to meet its “statutory responsibility” to provide the illegal immigrants with shelter, said the DoD notice.
HHS is also activating two federal facilities in the next few months to house UACs. An 800-bed facility will open in Homestead, Florida, while the is a 1,000-bed facility in Lakewood, Colorado.
Roby said that she will seek to prevent housing the UACs at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base just as she did in 2015 when the Obama administration first considered using it as a UAC shelter. In a Montgomery, Alabama, newspaper, she wrote “This is a terrible idea. Our active military installations have very important jobs to do.” Roby wrote, “At Maxwell-Gunter, that includes things like training, education and cyber activities, many times in classified settings that are very sensitive. There’s no question in my mind that forcing our base to house and secure hundreds of illegal minors would negatively impact the mission. We cannot allow that to happen.”
Observers of the Obama policy to house the alien minors say that besides the issue of the non-enforcement of Federal immigration law, the issue of what to do with decommissioned military bases should also be considered. Ira Mehlman, who leads the Federation of American Immigration Reform, reflected, in an interview with NewsNow, “We can argue whether what they're doing with the military is beneficial or not beneficial, but the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of things we could be doing with these military bases that might benefit the American people."
Yet another issue is that once the minors arrive at the military bases, local school districts, for example, will have to educate them, while local governments will have to provide other services.