Still struggling to house and process the wave of migrant children rushing the southern border, the Department of Health and Human services may expand housing to a Washington state military base, the Military Times reports.
HHS is already housing 2,300 children at three bases throughout the country–a fraction of the 47,000 apprehended since October. The migrants are coming mostly from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, countries plagued by poverty, instability, and extreme violence. The unaccompanied children cannot be sent back until they have gone through a deportation hearing, which can take years. In the meantime, HHS is responsible for housing them until they are placed with a family member or sponsor in the US. (RELATED: Feds Apologize For Missteps In Child Immigrant Housing Plan)
Joint Base Lewis-McChord could accommodate 600 of the migrants, who would be housed at an old summer camp facility there.
Congressional leaders have blamed the Obama administration for the surge, which began in 2012 and has been growing each year.
“The policies of your administration have directly resulted in the belief by these immigrants that once they reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely,” wrote House Speaker John Boehner in a letter to the president last week. “The State Department must immediately begin discussions with the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to ensure that apprehended migrants can be promptly and efficiently returned to their home countries.”
But their home countries don’t want them back. Guatemalan president Otto Perez asked that the migrants from his country be granted residency in a June meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, who the administration sent to the region to combat the perception that migrant children will be allowed to stay in the US indefinitely.
It is unclear how many of them do, however. White House press secretary Josh Earnest admitted in a June press conference that the administration doesn’t even know how many have scheduled court dates. Child migrant activist Wendy Young estimates that as many as 50 percent will be allowed to stay. (RELATED: Even Amnesty Champions Admit No One Knows How Many Child Migrants Are Getting A Free Pass)