On Monday, six of the seven members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation demanded that the federal government reconsider using Fort Sill military base to house illegal immigrant children who have been flooding across the border.
The Obama administration announced last week that the Department of Defense agreed to housing possibly 5,000 more illegal immigrant children at Fort Sill, in addition to the 3,600 children who were sent to the facility in May before state officials were even notified. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), along with Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Tom Cole, Markwayne Mullin, Frank Lucas, and James Lankford, noted in a joint statement that the agreement “also commits DOD facilities to be used through January 31, 2015.”
Inhofe, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said there is a “significant concern the contract” will “begin to impede on the base’s vital responsibility to house and train new recruits.”
“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,” Inhofe said. “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.”
Inhofe, who previously said housing illegal immigrants at the base raises serious national security concerns, also warned that 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.”
After reiterating that the border crisis “threatens our national security and national sovereignty,” Bridenstine said the request to use the facilities until 2015 “is a very real threat to U.S. military readiness” because “Ft. Sill is the primary artillery training center for troops before deployment.”
“The barracks are needed in October to prepare them for housing our warfighters in this critical training mission,” Bridenstine said. “Secretary Hagel should not extend or expand the use of Ft. Sill as a UAC camp.”
Lankford said since the “vast majority of these children already have at least one parent illegally in the United States,” many are not protected under human trafficking provisions under a 2008 law. Since the term “unaccompanied children” refers to minors who do not have a parent in the United States, Lankford said that “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.”
Cole said the Obama administration has incentivized even more illegal immigrants to come to the country, and he emphasized that he remains “strongly opposed to use of our military bases for housing illegals.” He added that he, in no way, “supports 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,” he stated.
Lucas also emphasized that the Obama administration cannot rely on housing illegal immigrants on military bases as “a long-term solution” to the crisis, while Mullin noted that the Obama administration’s “decision to hold the unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill in the first place was irresponsible.”
“Fort Sill is not designed for this purpose, and turning the facility into a longer-term solution for housing these minors is extremely concerning,” Mullin said. “We need to be looking for real solutions, not temporary fixes.”
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin started a petition to demand that illegal immigrants no longer be housed at Fort Sill after the lease with the federal government expires in four months.