Fort Sill Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors Closing -- For Now
(CNSNews.com) - The shelter for unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, is supposed to be closing on Friday, but Republican Gov. Mary Fallin says it could reopen in the months ahead -- and in the meantime, she doesn't know what will happen to the thousand-plus foreign children who have been staying there as guests of U.S. taxpayers.
"I have been asking a lot of questions because we have been held in the dark," Fallin told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Monday.
"Basically, we were told we were going to have around 1,200 minor unaccompanied children in Oklahoma. We think we have had around 1,800. They won't tell us the exact numbers. They won't tell us what countries they're from.
"We don't -- we do know that there have been children from other countries other than the three Central American countries that we were originally told. We know that there have been around 212 that have been released within Oklahoma to either people here legally or illegally into our state."
Fallin said those 212 children -- maybe more -- will be starting school in Oklahoma, but she doesn't know which schools; nor does she know where the other 1,600 illegal alien children will go.
"We don't know," she said. "They won't tell us. They said it's a matter of privacy and that we're not allowed to know that. And so that's part of the secrecy. We want to know what is the plan, what is the endgame, answer our questions, why so much secrecy?"
Gov. Fallin may not know what's going on at Ft. Sill, but the American Civil Liberties Union does, because its people have been allowed into the military base.
A blog on the ACLU website describes some of the children who are at Ft. Sill and even where some of them are going next.
"Once they are in the custody of a relative or sponsor, they will be required to appear in immigration court to argue against their own deportation," ACLU attorney Layla Razavi wrote on Monday. "The only way they can stay is by making a case in front of a judge that shows they are at risk of being persecuted or killed, all while a federal prosecutor argues against them."
The ACLU is urging President Obama to provide legal representation to all children facing deportation.
Gov. Fallin said she's started an online petition -- located on her campaign website -- asking the Obama administration to close the shelter at Fort Sill, give the people of Oklahoma information about where the children are going, and secure the border. She said an "overwhelming" number of Oklahomans already have signed the petition.
"We...have asked the federal government and President Obama to close the Fort Sill facility because we need to get back to its purpose, which is to train our military.
And just a little while ago, we received word that the facility will be closing this Friday, which we're very pleased and thankful for.
"But we also know that, just last week, they extended lease on Fort Sill to keep it open until January 31. So we're receiving mixed signals once again from the administration."
(Press reports say two other shelters at bases in Texas and California are expected to close in the next two to eight weeks.)
Gov. Fallin says her primary responsibility is to help the children of Oklahoma. "It is wrong for the president to ask Oklahomans to divert their attention and limited resources away from our own children, just as it is wrong for him to ask our military to play host to a large daycare facility for undocumented minors," she wrote in her governor's column on Monday.
Fallin said the people of Oklahoma are not equipped to solve problems in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.