Defense Secretary James Mattis on Sunday said that the Pentagon is preparing to build temporary camps for undocumented migrants at two US military bases, in “close alignment” with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Mattis said that DHS requested the Department of Defense “build temporary camps on two of our bases,” and that the U.S. military is in a “logistics support response mode.”
“This is something that we can do again, whether it be refugee boat people from Vietnam, people that have been knocked out of their homes by a hurricane, absolutely it’s appropriate to provide logistical support however it’s needed,” Mattis said of his the Defense Department’s role in the effort.
While Mattis did not name the bases, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has toured facilities on four military bases; Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas, as well as three bases in Texas: Dyess Air Force Base, Goodfellow Air Force Base and Fort Bliss.
“While four bases (3 in Texas and 1 in Arkansas) have been visited by HHS for possible housing, it doesn’t mean any or all children would be housed there,” Army Lt. Col. Jaime Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.
The Pentagon said last week that it would make space available to house as many as 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children detained after illegally crossing the southern U.S. border – which we assume will now include families after Wednesday’s Executive Order which keeps them together.
HHS would operate the shelters, while the Pentagon will have no role.
On Friday Time Magazine obtained a government draft memo which states that the US Navy is drawing up plans for “sprawling detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on remote bases in California, Alabama and Arizona, escalating the military’s task in implementing President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy for people caught crossing the Southern border.”
The Navy memo outlines plans to build “temporary and austere” tent cities to house 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields just outside the Florida panhandle near Mobile, Alabama, at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach, Alabama, and nearby Navy Outlying Field Silverhill.
The memo also proposes a camp for as many as 47,000 people at former Naval Weapons Station Concord, near San Francisco; and another facility that could house as many as 47,000 people at Camp Pendleton, the Marines’ largest training facility located along the Southern California coast. The planning memo proposes further study of housing an undetermined number of migrants at the Marine Corps Air Station near Yuma, Arizona. –Time Magazine
The Navy would spend around $233 million to build and operate a facility for 25,000 people for a 6-12 month period of time.
A 60-day timeline has been proposed to build the first temporary facility for 5,000 adults, while room for 10,000 people per month could be added after that.
The memo was written by Phyllis L. Bayer, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment, in anticipation for a request from the Department of Homeland Security. It recommends Navy Secretary Richard Spencer sign off on the plan, which allocates roughly 450 square feet per immigrant held for housing, support staff and security, and send it to Defense Secretary James Mattis. –Time Magazine
On Wednesday, President Trump ordered the Pentagon and DHS to find a solution to house the tens of thousands of immigrants currently awaiting criminal proceedings for crossing the US-Mexican border illegally.
Migrant children are currently being held in facilities operated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the HHS – including a Walmart in Texas that was recently opened up to reporters.
As Time notes, the Obama placed around 7,700 migrant children on military bases in Texas, California and Oklahoma in 2014. The temporary shelters were shuttered after four months.
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