US & World

Pentagon: Two military bases to house migrants

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Dozens of women and children have arrived at the US border fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries

Two US military bases will be used as temporary camps to house migrants who crossed the border illegally, the US defence secretary has said.

Secretary Jim Mattis did not say which bases will be used for the camps and whether they would house migrant children or families held together.

The Pentagon said last week it planned to house 20,000 detained children on military bases.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump repeated calls for deportations without judicial process.

“People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the US illegally,” he continued.

Where are the military bases located?

Secretary Mattis told reporters on Sunday the request was “a logistics function that’s quite appropriate” for the military, which has previously housed both refugees and Americans in need of shelter.

He also said the military was still working through details, including “exactly how much capacity they need at the two bases, what other kinds of facilities they need built,” Reuters reported.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services visited three bases in Texas last week to examine whether they could be used to house migrant children, US media report.

NPR reported on Monday that Ft Bliss outside of El Paso, would be used to house migrant families, and Goodfellow Air Force, outside of San Angelo, would be used for unaccompanied migrant children.

The secretary was speaking to reporters while on his way to Asia to meet with Chinese, Korean and Japanese defence ministers.

What’s the context?

The call for more shelter has followed public outcry over conditions and treatment of migrant children in government facilities.

US immigration officials say 2,342 children were separated from 2,206 parents from 5 May to 9 June.

While the adults are held in custody pending court appearances, the children are being sent to holding cells, converted warehouses and desert tents under the “zero tolerance” policy introduced in April.

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Media captionDrone footage shows a “tent city” immigration centre

Officials have also gone to court to try to lengthen the time children can be held as parents are prosecuted.

On Sunday, a 15-year-old boy was reported missing from a migrant children’s centre in Brownsville, Texas, police said.

The boy allegedly ran away from the centre on Saturday, but officials did not offer any further details.

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Trump signed an executive order halting separations but thousands of children remain separated from their families

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the military to create temporary housing for the thousands of undocumented migrants being detained at the US-Mexico border.

Emails seen by US media revealed the bases would house minors who have crossed into the US without an adult relative as well as those who have been separated from their parents at the border.

The shelters will be run by HHS and not the Pentagon, according to the Associated Press, and facilities may be available as early as July.

What is Trump saying?

Following similar comments over the weekend, President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday that hiring judges “is not the way to go” and that “people must simply be stopped at the border”.

“If this is done, illegal immigration will be stopped in it’s tracks – and at very little, by comparison, cost”, he continued. “This is the only real answer – and we must continue to BUILD THE WALL!”

These comments come days after Mr Trump reversed a policy to separate migrant children from their parents after fierce backlash at home and abroad.

The president has not made a distinction between economic migrants and those seeking asylum in his Twitter posts.

Mr Trump has faced criticism, including from his own Republican Party, for his choice of language online.

Following Mr Trump’s election in 2016, the numbers of migrants held or detained entry while crossing the border had dropped significantly.

However, since February 2018, the number of migrants crossing the border illegally is up, with arrests last month more than double those in May 2017.

While illegal crossings cannot be accurately counted, border arrests are used as a measure of illegal border crossings.

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