In order to accommodate an expected influx of children split from their parents as a result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ directive to prosecute all persons crossing the U.S. border illegally, the Trump administration is seeking to warehouse those children on American military bases.
According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children.
An official at HHS confirmed the military site visits, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plans are not yet public. The official said that HHS currently has the bed space to hold 10,571 children.
The bases would house minors under 18 who either cross the border alone or are separated from their parent(s) by the government.
The agency’s current facilities are 91 percent full, according to one HHS official, and the Trump administration’s crackdown could send thousands more children their way.
That crackdown will see more parents sent to immigration jail as they await court dates and children handed over to foster care.
“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law,” Sessions said in a speech last week.
“If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” he added. “It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”
Housing children at U.S. military bases is not without precedent:
At the peak of the 2014 child-immigration crisis, the Obama administration used bases in Oklahoma, Texas and California to house more than 7,000 children over a period of several months.
But the practice in general is frowned upon, with opponents noting that separating families only serves to inflict further trauma, especially on the children.