Joint Base Lewis-McChord could house immigrant children - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Joint Base Lewis-McChord could house immigrant children

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KHQ.COM - Tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States since early October could soon be housed in Washington State.

A group from the Department of Health and Human Services has visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord to determine whether the base should be one of several military bases that will temporarily house minors from South America.

"We are building more capacity to get children in beds also, Health and Human Services is stepping up efforts for long term care of these children." said FEMA Director Craig Fugate.

Right now children are being housed at three military installations in California, Oklahoma and Texas. Each base has an agreement to house the detainees for 120 days.

“Health and Human Services contacted the Department of Defense to inquire about vacant faculties,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson said.

He says while Fairchild was discussed, it will not be a potential site to temporarily house the minors.

"The current surge of unaccompanied children across our border is both a humanitarian issue and sign that our borders are not being protected as they should. My goal is to find a humane solution where minors are safe and healthy as well as ensure that we are respecting the laws of our nation and securing our borders." wrote Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers in an email to KHQ Local News.

The number of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border has more than doubled over the past year. About 52,000 have crossed this year, with most of them coming from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

In early June, President Obama declared this an "urgent humanitarian crisis." The White House says its increasing border enforcement and speeding up the removal process, but some politicians are calling this a refugee crisis and not an immigration issue.

"When it comes to immigration, listen I've made it clear. The President is making this harder and harder everyday for us to try and deal with this in a responsible way. We've got people flooding across the border. We have a humanitarian disaster on the border. Most of it at the President's own making in my opinion and so it makes our jobs much more difficult because of the actions he has taken or not taken with regard to the border." said House Speaker John Boehner.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office also has been in touch with the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the proposal.

A spokesperson for the Governor sent the following in an email "'We don’t have much comment to offer at this point given we don’t have a decision-making role. But we’ve been monitoring the situation and are in touch with federal authorities."

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