Pentagon asked to house migrant children at two bases in Texas – Metro US

Pentagon asked to house migrant children at two bases in Texas

Unaccompanied minors are transported after crossing the Rio Grande river
Unaccompanied minors are transported after crossing the Rio Grande river into the U.S. from Mexico on a raft in Penitas, Texas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Tuesday it had received an internal government request to house unaccompanied migrant children at two U.S. military facilities in Texas, amid a sharp rise in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The request by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the first under President Joe Biden’s administration and eyes Joint Base San Antonio and Fort Bliss, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing. Kirby did not specify how many children might be housed at the bases.

“We have just received this request, so I don’t have much more detail than that. We’ll analyze it and evaluate it just like we would any other request for assistance,” Kirby said.

Kirby said he believed HHS was looking at using a vacant dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio and vacant land at Fort Bliss. He did not explain how HHS would use vacant land.

U.S. government envoys were to have initial talks in Mexico on Tuesday about managing the surge of migrants https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN2BF2GE.

Biden, a Democrat who took office on Jan. 20, pledged to reverse many of the hard-line border policies of his Republican predecessor, former President Donald Trump. But less than two months into his presidency, he is dealing with an emerging humanitarian and political crisis.

The number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border this year is on pace to be the highest in 20 years, one of Biden’s top officials said last week, a rise that includes an increase in unaccompanied children.

The Biden administration has struggled to house the growing number of children arriving without a parent or legal guardian, which has left them stuck in jail-like border facilities for days.

The HHS refugee office currently has more than 11,000 unaccompanied children in its custody. As of March 19, more than 5,000 children were in crowded border stations, according to internal U.S. government data reviewed by Reuters.

Separately, the HHS refugee office said that the Biden administration will add emergency housing for an additional 500 unaccompanied minors in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

The new emergency facility is part of an effort to house accompanied minors that has included beds in the Dallas convention center and other sites in Texas.

Republicans have blamed Biden for relaxing immigration policies, while some Democrats are concerned about conditions in facilities and why children are being held for so long.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Mica Rosenberg and Ted Hesson; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)