HHS seeks to house migrant children at three US military bases

The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday the Department of Health and Human Services has requested the use of three military installations in Texas to house some of the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children now overwhelming other federal government facilities.

The Defense Department has twice loaned facilities to HHS to house migrant children under both the Obama and Trump administrations. In early March, the Pentagon confirmed HHS had conducted a site visit to Fort Lee in Virginia but made no decision about whether to use the facility or not. Now, DOD has been asked to allow the use of barracks and land at Joint Base San Antonio, Lackland Air Force Base, and Fort Bliss, all in Texas.

“The department has received a request for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

“We have just received this request,” he added, noting the request was “just hours old.”

In 2014, the Obama administration housed some 7,000 children on military bases in Oklahoma, Texas, and California. Four years later, Trump prepared beds for some 20,000 unaccompanied children on bases in Texas and Arkansas.

Kirby said the current request is to use a vacant dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio and land at Fort Bliss. Prior approvals have been preceded by HHS site visits.

Kirby referred questions about the specific number requested and timing to HHS. HHS did not immediately respond to questions by the Washington Examiner.

Asked if the Biden administration request would be automatically approved, Kirby said it would first be evaluated.

“We don’t rubber stamp anything here at the Department of Defense,” he said. “There’ll be an evaluation and an analysis of the request just like any other request for assistance.”