Over the past few weeks, the Trump administration has intensified its efforts to “deter” immigrant families from crossing the border, most visibly by promising to break up families. In an NPR interview last week, Discipline Keeper John Kelly was asked about the heartlessness of separating parents from children. He responded, “I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of—put into foster care or whatever.”
Turns out the “whatever” Kelly couldn’t expend the mental energy to articulate involved warehousing children on military bases, the Washington Post reports.
As the Post writes on Tuesday, Donald Trump’s administration has been arresting so many families—many of whom are Central Americans looking for asylum—that Health and Human Services is running out of space in its foster care facilities. Now, the department is planning to make visits to military sites over the next few weeks in order to “evaluate their suitability for child shelters.”
While these site visits are “preliminary assessments” according to an email sent to Pentagon staffers, one HHS official tells the Post that the department’s 100 foster care facilities are currently at 91 percent capacity, which is why HHS is exploring the option of sending kids to military bases. When immigrant families are arrested at the border, the children are held in government care until an adult relative can pick them up. According to the agency, 85 percent of children are released into the care of a relative in the U.S, and background checks are performed on potential “sponsors.”
This is not the first time children have been housed in military bases. According to the Post, “at the peak of the 2014 child migration crisis, the Obama administration used bases in Oklahoma, Texas and California to shelter more than 7,000 children over a period of several months.”
Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed to prosecute every single undocumented family crossing the border. In regards to separating families, Sessions said, “If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you ... If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”
“It’s not our fault that somebody does that,” he added.