Immigrant children in U.S. custody will be sent to a U.S. Army base once used as a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II as the Trump administration seeks new shelters to house an overflow of people crossing the border, reports Time.
The Health and Human Services Department (HHS), which operates the Office of Refugee Resettlement, said it was activating the 150-year-old installation at Fort Sill Army Base near Lawton, Okla., to serve as a temporary emergency shelter for 1,400 children until they can be given to an adult relative.
The agency said Fort Sill will be used “as a temporary emergency influx shelter” even though it already operates about 168 facilities and programs in 23 states, reports Time.
Health and Human Services said in a statement that it has taken about 40,900 children into custody through April 30, a 57% increase from last year.
Using military bases in this way is not new. In 2014, the Obama Administration placed around 7,700 migrant children on bases in Texas, California and Oklahoma, including Fort Sill. The temporary shelters were shuttered after four months. Last year, the government evaluated several military bases to shelter migrants, but ultimately decided not to use the facilities.
However, it appears unavoidable this year. Apprehensions of children at the border are already nearing record numbers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection released data last week that showed the figures had skyrocketed to 56,278 at the end of May, a 74% increase over last year. The influx of migrants, mainly from Central America, is straining an already exhausted system, U.S. officials say. Several children have died while in U.S. custody since last year.