“I can tell you that the department has received a request for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children,” Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.
“We have just received this request, so I don’t have much more detail than that,” Kirby said. “We’ll analyze it and evaluate it just like we would any other request for assistance.”
Kirby declined to say how many migrant children could be housed at the two locations. Fort Bliss, located in El Paso near the U.S. southern border, is the second largest base by area in the United States.
Later in the briefing, Kirby said the U.S. housed migrants on bases in 2012 and 2017. “It’s not out of the norm for us to support these kinds of requests,” he said.
The request from HHS comes after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requested help from the city of San Diego to house some of the unaccompanied minors traveling across the border.
San Diego, over the weekend, agreed to open its convention center to the federal government for use as a temporary shelter. City officials said they would support the “federally funded effort by providing vital services to these vulnerable children who came to our country seeking safety.”
The convention center, according to the city, will be a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children up to age 17.
The plans are still being finalized, but once operational, the site will be used for approximately three months, giving each child an average stay between 30 and 35 days. While at the site, the unaccompanied children would be provided with food, medical care, a place to sleep and showers, according to the city.
The city said a “safe and secure recreation area will also be created on the exterior of the facility. The children are not permitted to leave the convention center until reunification occurs.”
“Every child in our care deserves a safe place to rest and to know their well-being is addressed,” Becerra said Monday. “The County and City of San Diego has generously offered to partner with the Department as we abide by the law to provide unaccompanied children with food, sanitation and shelter.”
Becerra added: “Our task is to protect the health and safety of unaccompanied children, who are under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while they go through their immigration proceedings.”
The Department of Health and Human Services Refugee Resettlement Program is expected to fund the temporary shelter, along with other federal partners including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The temporary shelter comes as thousands of unaccompanied children attempt to enter the United States.
The number of migrant children in federal custody has surged past 4,000, with roughly 94% of beds for migrant children occupied, sources told Fox News, while adding that migrant children are entering federal custody faster than they are leaving, creating a backlog.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the Biden administration’s focus, at this point, is “on solutions” and “putting in place policies, including expediting processing at the border and opening additional facilities.”
“Our focus is on solutions and implementing them as quickly as possible,” Psaki said.