Oklahoma lawmakers speak on Fort Sill migrant children situation

Fort Sill

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - Local lawmakers are all speaking out about migrant children being housed at Fort Sill.

The Department of Health and Human Services said roughly 1,400 migrant children will be making their way to Fort Sill as soon as next month. The Department of Health and Human Services said all of those children will be sheltered in hard-sided, vacant structures on post and ensure it will not affect Fort Sill's ability to conduct their primary missions.

Fort Sill served as a housing stating for migrant children back in 2014 and the Department of Health and Human Services says the area once again meets the requirements necessary for more children to be relocated here. In a statement, HHS said through April of this 2019 alone, their Office of Refugee Resettlement, who handles the relocation of the children, has received nearly 41,000 referrals of what they call unaccompanied alien children, an increase of 57-percent from last year.

In that same statement, HHS also noted that they are “legally required to provide for the care and custody of all UAC referred to ORR until they are released to appropriate sponsors, usually a parent or relative, while their immigration cases proceed.”

Oklahoma’s leaders also spoke on the issues today, with Senator James Lankford saying the kids being housed at Fort Sill is a result of President Barack Obama’s actions back in 2014, which brought the kids to Fort Sill the first time. Lankford said we need to address the loopholes in our immigration process.

"The President has requested an additional $4.5 billion this year on top of the $1.3 billion already spent just to care for UACs. When President Obama’s Administration used Ft. Sill to house UACs, I toured the facility to see the safe environment provided for unaccompanied minors, but I was frustrated by President Obama’s lack of engagement in the problem. We must work with Mexico and fix our own legal loopholes to solve the underlying issues,” Lankford said.

Senator Jim Inhofe also cited the Obama Administration for the problem but said he is confident it will be handled differently this time.

"I have spoken to the Trump administration and local base officials and am confident that, unlike in 2014, there is an organized, responsible plan for temporarily housing unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill that will not have an adverse impact to readiness or the missions at Fort Sill,” Inhofe said.

Congressman Tom Cole also chimed in, saying the children coming to Fort Sill shows the dire need for a permanent solution at the border. He went on to fully support HHS.

"I will be monitoring the situation closely in the days ahead and working hand in hand [with] my colleagues in the Oklahoma delegation to ensure things go smoothly at Fort Sill. I have every confidence in those involved and tasked with the challenging job ahead, but I also have no doubt that our leaders at Fort Sill as well as local officials and the Lawton community will be welcoming and supportive. We know we can face this situation successfully and compassionately because we have already done so once before,” Cole said.

The Department of Health and Human Services said the children being housed at Fort Sill will have no impact on the Department of Defense’s ability to conduct its primary missions nor on military readiness. In addition, them using the vacant buildings on post will be fully-reimbursable to Fort Sill.

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