Oklahoma Leaders Respond To Plans To House Illegal Immigrants At Fort Sill

Saturday, June 7th 2014, 11:08 pm
By: News 9

Hundreds of children who came to the U.S. illegally from Central America are expected to be coming to Fort Sill in Lawton as early as Tuesday.

Governor Mary Fallin said she got word of this decision from the President on Friday, and it's sparking more debate on how to handle immigration. It could cost around $250 per child per day that they're housed on base.

Some Oklahoma Congressmen have already come against the housing plan, expressing concern for how long it will last and at what cost.

Fort Sill is to house anywhere from 600 to 1,200 minors according to the Governor's Office. The majority of the minors are between 13 and 17 years old, who illegally crossed the southern border of the country.

"They're certainly fleeing from a challenging life, no question about that, but if the United States accepts everybody in the world who is fleeing from a challenging life then we're going to essential have no border policy," said Congressman Tom Cole (R).

Cole says the United States already accepts more illegal immigrants than any country in the world. He says he is disappointed that no one in Congress was briefed about Fort Sill plan and the Governor was blind sided even though the President put the order out on June 2nd.

"This is a very inappropriate use for a military facility. It's not what they're designed to do," said Cole. "They're not supposed to be juvenile detention centers. It is going to detract from resources that should be devoted to our American service men and women."

Former Oklahoma State Senator and retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell says this will place a big strain on the military.

"Now we will have soldiers who will be required to go away from the training of new artillery and dealing with a whole range of issues which they will perform what they are told, but it is going to be a stressful time at Fort Sill," said Russell.

Russell likens the current situation to the mass Cuban exodus of 1994 and to the Mariel Harbor boat lift in 1980.

"Not to say that all Americans might not be sympathetic or have some notion of humanity, but in the case of Cubans at Fort Chaffee in 1980, it took a fair amount of time, some were sent back to Cuba, others were allowed to become citizens."

Attorney David Slane handles immigration cases and was a soldier at Ft. Hood at the time when the massive wave of Haitian immigrants came for refuge.

"After seeing the Haitian riots, it was disruptive to everything going on the base and I don't think we were equipped to handle that," said Slane. "But now, that I handle so many of these immigration cases, some of the conditions on a military post may be better than if they were returned to their country."

The unaccompanied children will also be placed at bases throughout the nation, including ones in Texas, California and New York.

Congressman Cole says he will have a briefing on Monday with the Department of Human Services, which will cover a majority of the expense.

The number of minors who illegally immigrate to the U.S. is expected to rise to 66,000 this year and to 127,000 by next year.