By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, AP
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Only U.S. two states say their National Guard units — part of the reserve components of the United States Armed Forces — could provide facilities to house unaccompanied immigrant children following a request for options from the government.
California and Virginia told the National Guard Bureau they have facilities that could be used, but they would require additional funding if asked to meet federal requirements.
Other states responding to the National Guard Bureau’s request late last month say they aren’t set up to handle that kind of housing or they lack the proper facilities.
A total of 10,588 unaccompanied children crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in October and November, compared with 5,129 who crossed during the same two months last year, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
U.S. immigration policy dictates that unaccompanied minors trying to escape dangerous situations can’t be turned away.
Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Director Sylvia Burwell formally asked the Defense Department to provide up to 5,000 temporary beds within 30 days for the minors.
The government has recently assessed Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico; Fort Hood, Texas; Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington; Fort McCoy, Wisconsin; and Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, for potential use as temporary shelters, according to the HHS.
The government’s expansion of its temporary ability to house children “is a prudent step to ensure that the Border Patrol can continue its vital national security mission to prevent illegal migration, trafficking, and protect the borders of the United States,” said HHS spokesman Mark Weber.
Ohio state Adjutant Gen. Mark Bartman said he and state governor John Kasich have concerns about the government’s ability to safely handle the increased number of children in refugee resettlement programs.