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Unaccompanied children could be housed at Maxwell

Jul. 24, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
MEXICO-US-MIGRATION-BORDER-PARTOL
A Mexican boy looks at a member of the U.S. Border Patrol standing guard Tuesday on the border between El Paso in the United States and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. (Jesus Alcazar / AFP via Getty Images)
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Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, is now joining several other military bases as possible locations to house unaccompanied Central American minors, according to the state’s governor’s office.

Officials with the Defense and Health and Human Services departments notified Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley that Maxwell is being considered as a location to shelter some of the surging number of unaccompanied minors who have been caught illegally crossing the border, said Yasamie August, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office.

The Recruit Housing and Training facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland already is being used to house 1,820 children ages 12 to 17. Additional children are being held at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Naval Base Ventura County, California. The Defense Department has said Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, also is being considered for housing the children.

HHS officials have already visited Lewis-McChord and are assessing the possibility of sending the children to the base. Officials have not yet visited Maxwell, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson said. Currently no other Air Force bases are in consideration, he said.

The Maxwell announcement comes the same week that Bentley joined five other governors in sending a letter to President Obama expressing concern about the administration’s handling of the situation, and about the potential that states might be forced to pay for the education, social services and health care of the children.

“We are concerned that the failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border,” the July 22 letter states. “We fear that this will put a significant number of children at risk of abuse and neglect on their journey to the United States.”

More than 57,000 children have crossed the border since October, according to the letter, and there are reports that more than 90,000 children could make the journey.

“With no end in sight, we need to have a plan to deal with this crisis in a humanitarian and practical way,” according to the letter, which was also signed by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah.

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