An Air Force base in Montana is being considered to serve as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied illegal immigrant children, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said this week.
The Department of Defense will do an assessment of unused space at both Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, and Army base Fort Sill in Oklahoma.
Malmstrom would not become immediately occupied if selected, but would be available if there is urgent need for additional sheltering space in the event a natural disaster affects capacity at other shelters, Pat Fisher, HHS Administration for Children and Families media specialist, said in an email to local media outlet KPAX.
Fort Sill would be used as a temporary shelter if people need to be evacuated from other shelters ahead of a natural disaster, including hurricanes.
There has been a spike in the number unaccompanied migrant children needing somewhere to stay, Fisher said, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is legally responsible to provide such care.
Fisher told KPAX that if selected to provide temporary shelter, it would not impact the Defense Department’s “ability to conduct primary missions or impact military readiness,” and that HHS’ use of the vacant facilities “is on a fully reimbursable basis under the provisions of the Economy Act.”
HHS did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
So far this fiscal year – about seven months – 168,000 illegal immigrants have been released into the U.S. by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
While unaccompanied migrant children are coming into the U.S., so are families with children.
U.S. law and a 2015 court ruling require the release of illegal immigrants traveling with children within 20 days of detention. Due to the backlog of asylum cases, the migrants end up released before they ever appear in court, leaving the government to hope the immigrants show up to the hearings.
An increasing number of migrants continue to pour into the U.S., especially those with children.
A record 110,000 apprehensions were made at the southern border in April alone, the highest number in more than a decade. Of that 110,000, nearly all were made while the immigrants were sneaking across the border. Only 10,000 were apprehended at border entry points, and they had demanded entry.
Further, a staggering 62,000 immigrants were apprehended in family groups, the highest number of family unit apprehensions ever recorded, and double the number of those apprehensions in January.
The 20-day promise of release is also encouraging frauds who take advantage of the policy.
About 3,500 “fraudulent” families have been apprehended since October 2018. Those include groups posing as families because an adult brings a child who may or may not be related to them, then poses as the child’s parent.
Children have been kidnapped and even sold to support the scheme.
ICE suspects that one in 10 families are fraudulent.
Immigration officials have requested that Congress change the precedent set by the 2015 court ruling and permit families to be detained longer than 20 days, to expand detention centers, permit deportation of unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors, and to change asylum rules so they are not so easily abused.