For undocumented children pouring over the border, no more military housing

CNN
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 9:44am

The federal government will no longer be housing unaccompanied minors from Central America at three military facilities.

The Department of Health and Human Services, responsible for their care after they are taken into custody, announced the move on Monday, saying it has been able to find other types of locations for the some of tens of thousands of the children who have come from Central America.

"We are able to take this step because we have proactively expanded capacity to care for children in standard shelters, which are significantly less costly facilities. At the same time, we have seen a decrease in the number of children crossing the Southwest border," Ken Wolfe, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement.

The temporary shelters were set up with the cooperation of the Defense Department in May and early June as the nation saw a major spike in the numbers of these children -- mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- crossing into the United States through Mexico.

The three facilities were at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas, Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma and Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme in California.

Officials said they expect the children at Fort Sill to be moved by Friday and that the other two facilities to end operations in the next two to eight weeks.

HHS said about 7,700 children were placed at the three bases.

It is possible, HHS said, it would reopen the three military facilities if there is another surge.

Internal Homeland Security Department figures showed more than 62,000 children had illegally come into the United States as of the end of last week during the past 10 months, according to a U.S. official.

HHS' Administration for Children and Families is given responsibility for these kids after they are detained at the border. Right now, HHS said it will house the children both in standard as well as special surge facilities.

The ultimate aim is to release the kids to sponsors -- often times family members if they have some living in the United States -- while their cases make it through the immigration system. That can take several years.

-- CNN's Evan Perez contributed to this report.

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