Opposition surrounding undocumented children coming to Ft. Sill

Published: Jun. 10, 2014 at 2:36 AM CDT
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Lawton, Okla._ As many as 1,200 illegal immigrant children could be coming to live at fort sill as soon as Friday.

Over the past two years, the number of unaccompanied minors has spiked dramatically from 6,000 to more than 66,000, and it's believed by 2016 that number will soar to more than 140,000. Now, the governor is speaking out against the decision to place some of them on post.

It's a costly effort, as well. It has the Department of Health and Human Services asking for more than $1 billion in additional funding to deal with this problem in the short term. The effort at Ft. Sill is expected to cost more than $20 million in just 120 days. It's a decision that has garnered a lot of opposition from republican lawmakers.

"We don't have the answers to the questions," says Governor Mary Fallin, (R-Okla.). "We know that Oklahoma will be overburdened if these children should be released into Oklahoma."

Ft. Sill will soon become the third military installation in the country, after Joint Base San Antonio and Naval Base Ventura County, to house the unaccompanied minors.

"It's not the job of the United States military to effectively be the immigration department," says Congressman Tom Cole, who says there's been a recent and unexpected influx of the immigrant children into the states. "The fact that we're having this explosion right now is simply because we're facilitating it."

In San Antonio, they have housed nearly 2,000 children since opening their doors three weeks ago.

"These are really good conditions, certainly better than most of the children have come from and without question better than the conditions they traveled here from," said Krista Piferrer, with BCFS Health and Human Services.

The children coming to Ft. Sill are mainly from Central America, including Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These migrant children were previously apprehended at the southern U.S. border.

"They have all kinds of health needs, education needs, certainly language barriers," says Fallin.

Cole says he's heard it will cost $260 per child, per day to cover the expenses living on post.

"We need to have a broader debate about what we need to do here to get control of our border and to discourage rather than incentivize people from coming here illegally," says Cole.

DHHS said Monday the children coming to Ft. Sill will be coming from another facility here in the states where they receive health and mental health screenings.

A statement released by Ft. Sill says the children will stay on post for up to four months, or until they are reunited with their families or find a sponsor. Ft. Sill said they do not believe their mission of training and deploying soldiers and marines will be significantly impacted by this temporary arrangement.