Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that temporary shelters for immigrant minors, including the one at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, will be suspended.
In May and early June, HHS’s Administration for Children and Families opened three temporary shelters on military bases to handle the large increase in unaccompanied children being apprehended by immigration authorities.
The temporary shelters at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Fort Sill Army Base, and Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme provided care to more than 7,700 children since opening, according to officials.
Monday morning, HHS officials said they will be suspending these temporary facilities, because they have proactively expanded capacity to care for children in standard shelters, which are significantly less costly facilities. At the same time, officials said there is a decrease in the number of children crossing the southwest border.
As a result, officials said they expect the Ft. Sill facility to no longer be caring for these children by August 8. The other two facilities will also continue to phase down, and officials said they expect them to end operations over the next two to eight weeks.
In the near-term, officials said the three temporary shelters on military bases could be re-opened for a limited time if the number of children increases significantly.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin released a statement, saying she was pleased by the announcement, but worried the Obama administration might seek to reopen the facility sometime in the future.
“I am pleased that the Obama Administration is finally listening to the people of Oklahoma and acting to close the Fort Sill facility for illegal immigrants. However, I am disturbed the administration chose to renew its lease on the facility, thereby preserving the option of reopening it in the future.
“We know that illegal immigration naturally dips in the summer months, as temperatures rise at our southern border. Because of that decrease, the federal government has been able to empty the facility at Fort Sill and process the illegal immigrants they have brought to Oklahoma. There is nothing to stop this administration, however, from reopening the shelter at Fort Sill later in the year as the number of illegal immigrants apprehended naturally increases. I am calling on President Obama to set the record straight once and for all: will this facility be reopened, or can we trust that is has closed for good?
“As I have said for weeks, opening this facility at all was an improper use of our military base. It was a public health hazard. It was also an attempt to find a band-aid solution to a much larger border crisis caused by President Obama’s unwillingness to enforce our laws and secure our borders. I am relieved – as are many Oklahomans – to hear this facility will be closed by the end of the week. We can now use it as it was intended: as a military resource to house and train soldiers.
“Moving forward, I would like the president to give his word that this facility will remain closed permanently.”