USA Retrofitting Its Military Bases 'To Be Appropriate for Children'

By Susan Jones | June 10, 2014 | 6:27 AM EDT

Elana Carmen with her daughters Abigai and Ayala, of El Salvador wait at a Greyhound bus terminal in Phoenix on Thursday, May 29, 2014. About 400 mostly Central American women and children caught crossing from Mexico into south Texas were flown to Arizona this weekend after border agents there ran out of space and resources. Officials then dropped hundreds of them off at Phoenix and Tucson Greyhound stations, overwhelming the stations and humanitarian groups who were trying to help. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

( - The White House says it is preparing three U.S. military bases -- Lackland Air Force Base (San Antonio), Naval Base Ventura County (Calif.), and Fort Sill (Okla.) -- to house the "substantial numbers of unaccompanied children arriving in the Rio Grande Valley."

"These are Department of Defense facilities that HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) has retrofitted to be appropriate for children," a senior administration official told a White House conference call on Monday.

Officials told reporters that Lackland can hold 1,200 children; Ventura holds up to 575; and Fort Sill initially will hold about 600, but that can be expanded later to accommodate 1,200 children.

Press reports say Border Patrol agents have apprehended about 47,000 unaccompanied minors in the past eight months; and it's anticipated that as many as 90,000 unaccompanied minors may cross into the U.S. illegally this year alone.

When the unaccompanied minors, most from Central America, are picked up by the Border Patrol, the Health and Human Services Department takes custody of them, and at that point, "some important both moral and legal obligations apply," the official said on background.

U.S. taxpayers are paying to feed and house the children; and the Justice Department, in conjunction with AmeriCorps, is providing them with legal representation, because "they all end up in removal proceedings," officials said.

The White House insists that violence in Central America -- not lenient immigration policies -- explains the sudden surge of unaccompanied minors coming into this country:

"[I]t is abundantly clear that the reason for the uptick, the reason for this dramatic migration and this dramatic humanitarian situation has to do with what's going on in Central American countries. These are -- these children are from -- overwhelmingly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. These are countries and communities which are experiencing a great deal of violence.

"What we hear from the children themselves is that violence is a major reason that they're coming forward in this way and taking what is really a very perilous journey to reach the United States. In some cases, there are family reunification considerations. But this has to do with what children are fleeing in Central America.

"And once they reach the United States, we are making sure that we are doing an appropriate and effective job in meeting our obligations and our responsibilities to these young people."

Another administration official indicated that the Rio Grande Valley is overrun with foreigners under the age of 18:

"Most of the children are coming into the RGV, Rio Grande Valley. And to alleviate pressure there we have been ... transferring some of these children to Nogales (Arizona) for Border Patrol processing..."

Under the law, the U.S. cannot turn away children coming from "non-contiguous countries," the administration briefer said.

"We are also seeing large numbers of what we call family units, and these are mothers or fathers, mostly mothers, with young children, and as with the children also, they are mostly from these three Central American countries. There again, CBP cannot remove that individual, return them to Central America immediately."

The briefer explained that the "family units" are issued "notices to appear," which begins the removal process. And then -- "some of them get released."

The families are taken to bus stations in Texas and Arizona to be "processed by ICE at other localities."

"When they're taken to the bus stations, they're provided with food, they're provided with water for their journey then, to report to ICE at othe localities to finish the DHS processing effort," officials said.

On Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she learned from news reports that the Obama administration is transporting thousands of illegal aliens to her state, releasing them at bus stations in Tucson and Phoenix.

In a letter to President Obama last Monday, Brewer expressed "outrage over this disturbing and inhumane policy."

She wants to know why she was not notified; and she says she's now been told the policy of dumping illegal aliens at Arizona bus stations "will continue into the foreseeable future."

"Citizens demand -- and so should the media -– the reason for this massive influx of illegal crossings and the cost to taxpayers for having to deal with the crisis created by the President," Brewer said in a news release.

“Not only does the federal government have no plan to stop this disgraceful policy, it also has no plan to deal with the endless waves of illegal aliens once they are released here. If the Obama administration put half the effort into securing our border as it has invested to institute this operation, our state and nation would not be facing this situation.

"This is a crisis of the federal government’s creation, and the fact that the border remains unsecure –- now apparently intentionally -- while this operation continues full-steam ahead is deplorable."