The request comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon, reversing his policy of separating families at the border. As part of the order, the president made the Department of Justice responsible for the finding and constructing the facilities, since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities are already at or near capacity.
“The Secretary of Defense shall take all legally available measures to provide to the Secretary, upon request, any existing facilities available for the housing and care of alien families, and shall construct such facilities if necessary and consistent with law,” the order reads. “The Secretary, to the extent permitted by law, shall be responsible for reimbursement for the use of these facilities.”
Among the likely facilities are three Air Force Bases in Texas and one in Little Rock, Arkansas.
There are concerns, however, over whether these facilities are capable of housing children and families. A solider stationed at Fort Bliss, one of the military bases up for consideration, told The Daily Beast he wasn’t sure whether the base could take care of them “in a humanitarian way.”
According to a memo from the Pentagon, the sites will be operated by employees from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or their contractors. They will provide care to the children, “including supervision, meals, clothing, medical services, transportation or other daily needs,” and HHS representatives will be present at each location.
HHS, unfortunately, has a less than stellar track record when it comes to taking care of migrant children. As ThinkProgress has previously reported, HHS has spent over $800 million on sending immigrant children to a single foster company that has a history of abuse and neglect. At at least one facility contracted by HHS, migrant children were forcibly injected with antipsychotic drugs and physically abused, according to an investigation by Reveal.
“We’ve heard children in secure detention and staff-secure detention taking medication and not knowing the names of the medication or what they’re for, and also being told that if they don’t take the medication, that will be counted against their behavior,” an immigration lawyer who represents migrant children at two secure detention facilities in Virginia told ThinkProgress. “So that’s pretty consistent with what children have reported to us.”
Reveal’s investigation also found that HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement paid $3.4 billion dollars to private companies that house migrant children from 2014 to 2018. Of that amount, 44 percent of the funds went to companies facing serious allegations of child mistreatment.
The administration has also admitted to having no plans to reunite the over 2,500 children separated at the border due to Trump’s policy, in large part because the president’s executive order does not address the issue. While Trump said Thursday he has directed his administration to “keep illegal immigrant families together and to reunite these previously separated groups,” he has offered no details on how the government will do so.