Hundreds of orphans who entered the United States illegally will arrive at Lawton's Fort Sill on Friday, according to spokesperson Kenneth J. Wolfe with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Wolfe said 1,400 beds on the post were available for the children as of late Thursday.
The children escaped dangerous conditions in their home countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, according to federal officials. Nearly a week after HHS announced the unaccompanied minors will be transferred to Oklahoma, authorities have still not released or formulated a plan concerning the children's future. People on both sides of the immigration debate have called the situation a mess -- asking what to do with 600 to 1,400 orphans headed to the Lawton area.
"It's frustrating because we know they're coming to Oklahoma, but what happens from there," asked David Castillo of the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Nobody seems to know."
Humanitarian concerns have been mounting throughout Oklahoma and across the country for nearly a week. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City told News 9 it has reached out to federal agencies to offer support for the children's mental and emotional needs.
"[The federal agencies] were appreciative that we reached out and offered to assist in some regards," said executive director Patrick Raglow of Catholic Charities. "They said they would call us if they need us."
HHS told charities that volunteers and donations are not needed -- all of the basics including housing, food and clothing will be provided by a contractor working under the federal government, according to Raglow. U.S. border patrol agents continue to report increasing numbers of children crossing the southern border, escaping political turmoil and violence.
"More than likely, they're not bad kids," said Castillo. "They're just looking to survive."
More than 47,000 children traveling by themselves have illegally crossed into the United States since October, according to government statistics reported by CBS News on Thursday.