U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following statements after the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services announced their temporary plan to house unaccompanied minors at military installations, including Fort Sill.
“Decades of immigration failures, made worse by the Obama Administration, have created such a crisis on the southern border that it is necessary to turn to military resources to assist unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America. While I am disappointed that Democrats continue to ignore the crisis, I have spoken to the Trump administration and local base officials and am confident that, unlike in 2014, there is an organized, responsible plan for temporarily housing unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill that will not have an adverse impact to readiness or the missions at Fort Sill,” Inhofe said.
Inhofe continued, “This crisis was caused by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. President Obama’s policies invited these minors to come, and the Democrats’ continued blockade against common sense immigration reforms, including building the wall, have perpetuated it. I’m going to continue working with the President to enforce our immigration laws and secure the border as I have consistently done – it is our only hope of resolving the ongoing immigration crisis.”
“In 2014, our nation saw a large increase of people crossing the southern border. As a result, President Obama declared a ‘humanitarian crisis’ that required Ft. Sill to house Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs),” said Lankford.
“Five years later, hundreds of thousands of UACs are illegally crossing into the US in unprecedented numbers. This is further proof that the crisis at the border needs Congress’ immediate attention to address the growing humanitarian crisis and to fix the loopholes in our nation’s immigration process. The President has requested an additional $4.5 billion this year on top of the $1.3 billion already spent just to care for UACs on our southern border. When President Obama’s Administration used Ft. Sill to house UACs, I toured the facility to see the safe environment provided for unaccompanied minors, but I was frustrated by President Obama’s lack of engagement in the problem. We must work with Mexico and fix our own legal loopholes to solve the underlying issues,” Lankford concluded.
“The humanitarian crisis at our southern border continues to worsen by the day. In May alone, there were 144,000 migrants seeking entry – including far more families and children than ever before,” said Cole. “This surge of migrants is overwhelming our usual facilities and resources, including the capacity for housing and caring for thousands of vulnerable unaccompanied children arriving each month. While the announced use of Fort Sill as a shelter for these children is only temporary, it certainly highlights the dire need for a permanent solution to manage the border crisis.
“During this emergency, I fully support HHS using Fort Sill to again house these children, as was done in 2014 during the Obama Administration. I will be monitoring the situation closely in the days ahead and working hand in hand with my colleagues in the Oklahoma delegation to ensure things go smoothly at Fort Sill. I have every confidence in those involved and tasked with the challenging job ahead, but I also have no doubt that our leaders at Fort Sill as well as local officials and the Lawton community will be welcoming and supportive. We know we can face this situation successfully and compassionately because we have already done so once before,” Cole concluded.
In 2014, Inhofe visited Fort Sill while the Obama Administration used it to house unaccompanied minors. He was specific about his concerns: “My greatest concern with today’s visit is that the Administration still could not provide us answers to basic questions as to where the resources are going to come from to care for these children or the assurance that housing them on a military installation will not become a permanent program.”
Now, unlike in 2014, Inhofe has had conversations with the Administration, and has received clear assurances that this is a temporary program that will not divert resources from Fort Sill’s mission.
DOD has also secured a memorandum of understanding with HHS to ensure that any funds expended by DOD in connection with this mission are reimbursed by HHS. This will preserve precious resources for our men and women in uniform.
HHS has also committed to providing tours and briefings to elected officials, stakeholders and press.