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100 Unaccompanied Migrant Children Arrive At JBSA-Lackland, As Part Of Biden Housing Plan

Lackland Air Force Base
Eileen Pace
TPR News
Exterior sign to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

This story was updated on April 17.

One hundred unaccompanied migrant teenage boys arrived at temporary housing prepared for them at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on Saturday.

A statement explained that the facility could offer up to 372 beds for the boys, aged 13 to 17.

The children will be provided with sleeping quarters, meals, toiletries, laundry, recreational activities, and access to medical services. They are all tested for the coronavirus.

Their arrival at the base was part of the Biden administration's plans to use military bases in San Antonio and El Paso to house a growing number of unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody.

In late March, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the Department of Health and Human Services would use a vacant dormitory at Lackland and an area of land on Fort Bliss to build a “suitable temporary housing facility.”

Kirby said HHS will maintain full responsibility for the migrant children at all times, and military training and operations, including National Guard and Reserve readiness, will not be negatively impacted.

HHS has also eyed the Freeman Coliseum and other Bexar County buildings as potential sites to shelter migrant children, according to officials.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff explained in late March that HHS and FEMA, which is helping take in migrant children, reached out to him about using the county’s Freeman Coliseum as a temporary shelter for up to 60 days.

He said the talks were preliminary and nothing had been confirmed. Wolff said it was one of several sites that had been in discussion. The discussion included handling security, providing meals, and site management. He said he fully supports the possibility.

“It’s a humanitarian effort. It’s not a permanent solution,” he said. “I think we talked to somewhere up to about 60 days and the fact that we have a large facility makes it a bit easier in the fact that it's climate controlled.”

HHS has already opened or announced five influx care facilities for migrant minors in Texas, including two in Carrizo Springs and one in Dallas, Midland and Pecos.

The second Carrizo Springs emergency shelter was also announced on Tuesday by HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. It is planned to take in 500 migrant minors under 17 when the site is ready to safely receive children, the agency said in a statement.

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María Méndez can be reached at maría@tpr.org or on Twitter at @anxious_maria
Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules