- The Trump administration is considering housing migrant children in “tent cities” near the US-Mexico border, McClatchy reported on Tuesday.
- The number of migrant children in custody has surged recently – some arrived at the border unaccompanied and others were separated from their parents under the new “zero-tolerance” policy implemented by the Trump administration.
- Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services are scouting out several military bases to determine whether any are “suitable” to temporarily house migrant children.
The Trump administration is reportedly scouting land near the US-Mexico border where so-called “tent cities” could temporarily shelter between 1,000 and 5,000 migrant children.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will soon visit Fort Bliss in Texas to view the land, McClatchy reported on Tuesday, citing government officials and other sources familiar with the plans.
The Trump administration has for months sought solutions for accommodating the rising number of unaccompanied children and migrant families apprehended at the border in recent months. The Washington Post first reported in May that military bases were being considered as shelters.
The news comes in the wake of the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute all migrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally and separate them from their children.
The policy and the uptick in border arrests has resulted in a surge in the amount of migrant children in custody – HHS said in late May it was holding 10,773 migrant children in custody, up 21% from the 8,886 it was holding the previous month.
It’s unclear how many of those children were separated from their parents and how many arrived at the border already unaccompanied, but a Customs and Border Protection official recently told lawmakers that 658 children had been separated from 638 adults within one two-week period in May.
The policy has stoked considerable backlash in recent weeks, as stories of traumatized children and devastated parents have been elevated in the national media. But the Trump administration has largely dismissed the complaints.
“The children will be taken care of – put into foster care or whatever,” the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said in an NPR interview last month. “But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
HHS told The Washington Post in May that its shelters for migrant children are currently at 95% capacity, and that the department was seeking to add thousands of bed spaces in the following weeks.
The HHS officials visiting Fort Bliss regarding the possible tent cities location are also scouting out the Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and the Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, according to McClatchy.
“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” one HHS official said.
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