Pentagon Reviewing Request to House Migrant Children at California Base

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is reviewing a request to house migrant children at Camp Roberts in California, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.

“We do have the request in the building. We are analyzing it as we have the others,” Kirby told reporters during a news briefing at the Pentagon.

On Tuesday, the Department Health and Human Services, who submitted the request for support to the DoD, conducted a site visit of the National Guard base in central California to determine whether it could be used as another location to temporarily house migrant children.

The Paso Robles Daily News reported Thursday that the California Department of Health and Human Services was assisting Camp Roberts with housing children ages 4 to 18 years old for four to six weeks. The initial request was for 1,500 beds but it could go higher, according to the news report.

Kirby would not provide any additional details, such as how many beds or what kind of infrastructure was requested. A request to HHS for more information about Camp Roberts has not been returned Thursday afternoon.

Camp Roberts provides training to the National Guard, Army Reserve, and active-duty Army units, according to its website.

The U.S. border with Mexico has experienced rising numbers in migration, including unaccompanied children, since April due to violence, natural disasters, food insecurity, and poverty in Central America, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Children who are found alone by U.S. Border Patrol agents must be transferred to HHS within 72 hours. However, that is not always the case. On Tuesday, reporters were able to visit a border detention facility in Donna, Texas, where more than 4,000 people were living in a space meant for 250, according to The Associated Press. More than 2,000 children had been at the facility for more than 72 hours, including 39 who had been there for more than 15 days.

The Pentagon has approved HHS to use two military bases in Texas for housing migrant children: Fort Bliss near El Paso and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. On Tuesday, 500 boys ages 13 to 17 arrived at Fort Bliss, where white soft-sided tents have been erected to house them. The location at the base can take in 5,000 children.

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has a vacant dormitory that has been selected to support 350 beds. HHS nor the Pentagon has said how many children are expected to go to each site.

The military support to HHS is expected to last until the end of year, according to the Pentagon.

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