Amidst reports that immigrant children separated from their parents have been kept in everything from dog kennel-like cages to repurposed Walmarts with blacked out windows, the Trump administration is reportedly floating a new plan to house unaccompanied minors entering the United States: sprawling tent cities housed on military bases.
Citing federal officials and “other sources familiar with the plans,” McClatchy reported on Tuesday that the Department of Health and Human Services—which is responsible for the longterm detention of undocumented minors—plans to tour a number of military bases across Texas. There, they will assess the ability of each base to sustain tent cities for anywhere from one to five thousand children as they are slowly processed through the immigration court system.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that HHS officials were considering using military bases to house unaccompanied minors.
According to McClatchy, current federal housing for unaccompanied minors is at 95 percent capacity, with approximately 10,000 children being held. That number is expected to grow as the Trump administration ramps up its efforts to prosecute any adult who enters the U.S. without authorization and to separate them from their children.
Last week, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley attempted to visit a privately run youth detention center in Brownsville, TX, where he was turned away and had the police called on him. In a statement to Splinter, an HHS official insisted that Merkley was turned away “for the safety, security and dignity of the children being cared for there.”
I have reached out to HHS for comment on its plans to build tent cities on military bases, and asked for clarification as to how those plans would uphold the “safety, security, and dignity” of the children detained there. I will update this story with any response.