The Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked to use Space Command headquarters to temporarily house unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed Wednesday. The Pentagon already approved the use of two military bases in Texas.
Officials are considering Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, Colo.– home to NORAD and U.S. Space Command – to house an undisclosed number of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children.
“There was a site visit today to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado … so we’re looking at an additional site potentially,” Kirby told reporters during a press briefing Wednesday. “I don’t know the results of the site visit, so I don’t want to speculate.”
HHS also asked to use an empty dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, as well as some land at Fort Bliss. DOD officially granted that request on Wednesday.
“DoD will provide HHS officials access to these locations immediately to begin initial actions to prepare for receiving unaccompanied migrant children as soon as preparations are complete,” Kirby said in a statement provided to American Military News late Wednesday.
“This support will be on a fully-reimbursable basis, and will not negatively affect military training, operations, readiness, or other military requirements, including National Guard and Reserve readiness. HHS will maintain custody and responsibility for the well-being and support for these children at all times on the installation,” Kirby added.
Referring to the number of illegal immigrant children that HHS is looking to house in Pentagon facilities, Kirby told reporters he was “not going to provide that information.”
“When I talked about Fort Bliss and I mentioned a parcel of land that was being looked at for potential use in this regard, what I would envision that looking like is temporary structures on that land to house these unaccompanied minors,” Kirby said. “Those structures would of course be funded by HHS, not the Pentagon, although it’s possible that we would provide some contracting support so that it can be done in an expeditious manner.”
“It’s something we have done before in  and in , so this is not out of the norm for us to support these kinds of requests,” Kirby told reporters Tuesday, according to Politico. “But again, I don’t want to get ahead of the decision-making process or analysis which is literally a couple hours old.”
“There was a site visit to San Antonio last week,” he said. “I don’t have an update on a site survey for Fort Bliss, but that’s typically a common practice, to do a site survey. What I can tell you is we have a request and those are the two sites HHS asked for support from.”
The Biden administration has stood firm in its policy not to deport unaccompanied children who arrive at the southern border. On Sunday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended President Biden’s plan for children at the border, saying, “We are encouraging families not to send their children along with dangerous journey because so many do not make it safely. We are encouraging them not to do so. Yet, if they arrive at the border, we have a responsibility to allow them to make their claims under United States law.”
Standing in contrast to Mayorkas claims, an appeals court recently found that the United States is not legally obligated to accept unaccompanied migrant children. Former President Donald Trump rejected most minors from Central America – most of whom were between the ages of 15 and 17 – sending them back to their home countries.
“Well, I think the messaging will continue to be that it is not the time to come, it is not a safe journey to make, that we are turning away people at the border, the majority of people are turned away at the border,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. “But at the same time, we believe it is the humane and moral step to treat and ensure, that these children are in safe places when they come across the border.”
According to internal CBP documents reviewed by ABC, there are 3,889 migrants being housed in a Donna, Texas, facility that is supposed to hold just 250, putting it 1,556 percent over capacity.
At least 5,000 unaccompanied children are also currently in Border Patrol custody, with an additional 10,500 being cared for by the Department of Health and Human Services, the news outlet reported.
When asked about the overwhelmed facilities, Psaki said the administration is expediting processing and opening additional facilities.
On Sunday, President Biden said he would visit the border “at some point.” The administration has refused to call the situation at the border as a “crisis,” frequently choosing refer to it as a “challenge” instead.