The Department of Health and Human Services, faced with an influx of unaccompanied migrant children being detained by the Trump administration, is considering erecting "tent cities" on military bases to house 1,000 to 5,000 children, McClatchy reports. HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement is in charge of unaccompanied minors — there are now more than 11,200 migrant children being held without parent or guardian — and the ORR's roughly 100 shelters are 95 percent full. The number of children in ORR custody has risen more than 20 percent since Attorney General Jeff Sessions started a "zero tolerance" immigration policy along the U.S.-Mexico border.
There has been a rise in unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S. from Mexico, but the "zero tolerance" immigration policy also separates children from their parents while the parents are prosecuted, filling up the shelters. HHS officials will visit Fort Bliss, an Army base near El Paso, to look at a parcel of land to create a temporary detention site for migrant children, McClatchy said, and HHS said it will also visit Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo to scope out sites for temporary shelters. "HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable," an HHS official told McClatchy.
Leon Fresco, a deputy assistant attorney general under former President Barack Obama, predicted that the Trump administration will need to ask Congress for more money soon if it wants to maintain its aggressive policy. "Separating families is not only controversial, it's also inordinately more expensive," he said. Clara Long at Human Rights Watch also suggested keeping families together during immigration hearings. "Detaining children for immigration purposes is never in their best interest and the prospect of detaining kids in tent cities is horrifying," she added. Peter Weber