A year after fierce opposition disrupted a contentious plan to use American military bases as shelters for illegal immigrants, the Obama administration is quietly working to make it happen and six facilities throughout the nation are currently being considered.
Under the plan the military installations would house droves of under-aged illegal immigrants, officially known as Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC), who have entered the country from Central America in the last two years. Most have come from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and they’re being relocated to states across the nation to make room for more in the overwhelmed Mexican border region. Judicial Watch has covered the crisis extensively and in 2014 reported that a hangar at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas was being covertly used as an illegal alien processing center for UACs. At the time the administration was under fire for using three military installations— Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Ventura County Naval Base in southern California and Ft. Still Army Base in Oklahoma—to process the barrage of illegal immigrant youths that had crossed into the U.S. through Mexico.
Now the administration has revived its controversial idea to house UACs in active military facilities. The Pentagon quietly notified lawmakers from the jurisdictions where the bases are located during the holidays when things are slow and many take vacation. One of them is Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby, who like many of her colleagues is outraged. Roby has made the Department of Defense (DOD) notice, delivered via electronic mail, public. It’s signed by Matthew Rhoades, a legislative affairs policy chief to the Secretary of Defense, and says that six DOD facilities were being assessed this month for use “as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children.” The installations on the short list are Maxwell Air Force Base in Congresswoman Roby’s Alabama district, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, Naval Support Activity in Pennsylvania, Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts and Travis Air Force Base in California.
The Pentagon notice says that 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.” An increase in shelter capacity is a prudent step to ensure ORR meets its “statutory responsibility” to provide the illegal immigrant youths with shelter, the document states. Besides the military bases, HHS is also activating two federal facilities in the next few months to house UACs. The first is an 800-bed facility that will open in Homestead, Florida in February and the other is a 1,000-bed facility in Lakewood, Colorado that will begin taking UACs in April.
Roby has vowed to fight the plan to bring detained illegal alien minors to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base as she did a year ago when the administration first considered it as a UAC shelter. “This is a terrible idea,” the congresswoman writes in a Montgomery newspaper piece published this week. “Our active military installations have very important jobs to do,” Roby writes. “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.”