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Posted at 6:05 p.m. on July 21, 2014
The Oklahoma congressional delegation is proud of its Fort Sill Army Base, but that doesn’t mean it wants to play host to thousands more unaccompanied child migrants awaiting deportation proceedings.
On Monday, one of the state’s two GOP senators and all six Republican congressmen called on the Obama administration to reverse its decision to send up to 5,000 more “unaccompanied alien children,” or UAC, to the Lawton army base on top of the countless children already being held there. They also want the administration to rethink plans to keep Fort Sill an active detention center through January 2015.
Sen. James M. Inhofe joined Reps. Tom Cole, Jim Bridenstine, Markwayne Mullin, Frank Lucas and James Lankford in blasting out a press release containing all of their statements deploring the decision.
Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down at the end of the year, did not sign onto the release.
“The request to extend use of [Defense Department] facilities for housing UAC is a very real threat to U.S. military readiness. Ft. Sill is the primary artillery training center for troops before deployment,” said Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., who was initially turned away from touring the facility until officials ultimately reversed that decision. “The barracks are needed in October to prepare them for housing our warfighters in this critical training mission. Secretary Hagel should not extend or expand the use of Ft. Sill as a UAC camp.”
“The Administration’s decision to hold the unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill in the first place was irresponsible,” added Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla. “Fort Sill is not designed for this purpose, and turning the facility into a longer-term solution for housing these minors is extremely concerning. We need to be looking for real solutions not temporary fixes.”
The members’ fight against using Fort Sill to house child migrants entering the country illegally comes as both chambers on Capitol Hill grapple with a $3.7 billion request from President Barack Obama to, among other things, bolster resources at the southern border and help address the severe and long-term overcrowding at detention facilities. Meanwhile, constituents around the country are protesting the arrivals of undocumented immigrant children in their districts, demanding that they be deported and holding signs that read, “Not my children, not my problem.”
Here are the other Oklahoma lawmakers’ statements:
From Inhofe, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee:
“First and foremost, the Oklahoma delegation is proud of Fort Sill and the community for rising to the occasion to assist the children that are in the crosshairs of this unfortunate crisis. There is significant concern the contract with Fort Sill is turning into a commitment beyond what was originally proposed by the Administration and will soon begin to impede on the base’s vital responsibility to house and train new recruits. During my visit in June to meet the children and tour UAC housing, I warned local leaders that I fully expected the Obama Administration to push its limits with the use of Fort Sill. The Obama Administration’s lack of organization and the President’s failure to send a strong signal that he will secure the border will only increase demand of our military installations. While our military bases have been used before to temporarily aid migrants and refugees, we now have an Administration that is asking our military to do more with less resources than ever before. President Obama needs to stop putting the onus on our military to manage his crisis, and he needs to prioritize solutions that will quickly reunite these children with their families in their home country.”
From Rep. Tom Cole, the chairman of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee:
“Since we learned of the Administration’s plan to use military installations for housing unaccompanied illegal minors, I have continually voiced my strong opposition to it. While the flood of these juveniles has caused an apparent crisis, it is one of the president’s own making due to a policy failure stemming from his unwillingness to enforce existing immigration law. Rather than acknowledge the problem at hand, the president has chosen to process individuals and allow them to stay in the United States, causing even more juveniles to make the journey. Not only is this surge causing a strain on the facilities and personnel of our military, but processing and detaining these juveniles on military installations does not and will not lead to a solution to the crisis. It instead incentivizes even more to come. I remain strongly opposed to use of our military bases for housing illegals, and most certainly do not support any time extension for HHS use of these facilities. Regardless of their origin, the treatment of all illegal immigrant children should be the same, meaning deportation should be immediate and mandatory.”
From Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee:
“Military bases such as Fort Sill have stepped up to temporarily house thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America. However, the Obama Administration cannot continue to rely on such facilities as a long-term solution to illegal immigration. If the president is serious about putting an end to this humanitarian crisis, he can start by securing our border and enforcing our country’s immigration laws.”
From Rep. James Lankford, who is the GOP nominee for the open Senate race to succeed Coburn in the 114th Congress:
“This is a problem of the President’s own creation. The task of safely and humanely housing thousands of unaccompanied alien children is a classic example of the President trying to manage a problem, rather than solve a problem. President Obama already has sufficient legal authority from Congress to quickly reunite these children with their families in their home country. The law is clear; a child is not considered ‘unaccompanied’ unless they do not have a parent in the United States. The vast majority of these children already have at least one parent illegally in the United States. This is not an issue of human trafficking. This is an issue of ignoring the law and attempting to jump ahead of other immigrants who have waited patiently to legally enter the United States. The quality facilities provided to these children at Ft. Sill are ideal for the Administration to stall the enforcement of existing law and further the President’s pro-amnesty agenda. As a father, I remain grateful to the hard-working contract personnel who are responsible for these children while in HHS custody in Oklahoma. But I continue to implore President Obama to enforce the law immediately and stop encouraging children to travel thousands of dangerous miles, only to face a delayed return home.”