Facing an unprecedented surge of refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration will open an emergency shelter at the Army’s Fort Sill in Oklahoma for migrant children traveling without their parents.
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The military post — about 90 miles southwest from Oklahoma City and better known as the home of the Army’s artillery branch and training — will receive as many as 1,400 minors as early as next month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.
Sue Ogrocki/AP, FILE
The use a military base isn’t unprecedented. In 2014, the agency used installations in Texas, Oklahoma and California to house 7,000 unaccompanied migrant children after other shelters hit capacity. But officials say the latest influx of families and children arriving at the southern border has taxed the program once again and forced some 2,000 kids to wait at Border Patrol stations beyond the 72-hour limit before they are transferred to a children’s shelter.
Last week, HHS announced it planned to turn an apartment complex, once used by oil field workers in south Texas called “The Studios” at Carrizo Springs, Texas, into an emergency shelter for 1,600 children.
The new emergency shelters come amid record-high levels of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, including some 11,000 kids who arrived at the border in the month of May without their parents. These “unaccompanied alien children,” or UACs, are typically older children or teens, but can sometimes include younger children traveling as part of a group, who travel in the hopes of meeting up with parents and other relatives already inside the U.S. The kids often spend several weeks or even months in temporary shelters before they can be placed with a sponsor.
There are currently some 13,350 minors in HHS custody.
The agency’s program also has come under severe financial strain in recent weeks, as Congress has yet to fulfill the Trump administration’s request for $2.9 billion in emergency money to pay for the shelters. As a result of the influx and lack of money, HHS said last week it was canceling education and recreational services for the kids. The program is expected to run out of money later this month, unless Congress approves the money.
Wilfredo Lee/AP, FILE