Ted Thornhill, Daily Mail (London), June 10, 2014
The Obama administration announced it is designating a third U.S. military base for emergency housing of children immigrating illegally into the United States without parents or relatives.
The news came as officials insist that the children are in good hands, despite allegations of abuse by US authorities.
Senior administration officials, who asked not to be identified, told reporters that an Army base at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will initially hold 600 ‘unaccompanied minors’ and eventually will be able to accommodate up to 1,200.
In recent weeks, the Obama administration has opened similar emergency shelters at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California.
The moves come amid a tidal wave of children trying to slip into the United States, largely from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, often to join a parent already here.
Reuters previously reported that the administration was seeking about $2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to handle the influx in fiscal 2015, which begins on October 1, more than double the $868 million appropriated this year.
HHS takes custody of the children shortly after they are detained at the border by federal law enforcement agents.
On Monday, administration officials said they would be asking Congress for an additional $560 million to help the Department of Homeland Security cope with the illegal border crossings.
One week ago, the White House director of domestic policy, Cecilia Munoz, attributed the rapid run-up in illegal immigration by unaccompanied minors to growing violence–often drug related or due to domestic abuse–in the three Central American countries.
However, there are also concerns about the children being abused on American soil.
Documents obtained by BuzzFeed show that a large number of minors have lodged complaints that they’ve suffered abuse at the hands of US immigration officials.
The allegations include officials kicking, punching and verbally abusing minors.
There were 809 abuse complaints filed against the Border Patrol between 2009 and 2012, according to the American Immigration Council.
Many children crossing the border to America end up being held in Arizona and a top official there says that they are well looked after.
Hundreds of kids are temporarily housed in a former warehouse in the border town of Nogales and its mayor, Arturo Garino, toured the massive facility on Monday.
He said: ‘The warehouse is very nice comparing to a lot of what I’ve heard . . . I’m very comfortable with it.’