UPDATED 7:25 PM PT – Saturday, April 3, 2021
The Defense Department approved a request for a central California military base to house unaccompanied migrant children. On Friday, a defense official confirmed that the request from Health and Human Services to house migrant kids at Camp Roberts was approved.
The base, which is just two hours northeast of Santa Barbara, was the third to be approved by the Pentagon for this purpose. Fort Bliss and Joint Base San Antonio in Texas were also used to house hundreds of migrant children seeking asylum.
However, the dramatic spike amidst a global pandemic has resulted in added repercussions of overcrowded facilities despite efforts to test children for COVID-19.
“While the children need guardianship and the military has the ability to accommodate Health and Human Services, it becomes a complex problem for logistics and sustainment,” Major General Michael T. McGuire, the director of Arizona’s Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, said. “And here in Arizona, we’ve been battling a statewide COVID-19 emergency and anything we add to the plate of our great service members that are out there makes it that much more complicated.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has scrambled to handle the historic immigration influx.
In March alone, Customs and Border Protection reported more than 170,000 migrants. Additionally, border officials said the facilities were overflowing with kids waiting to transfer to HHS facilities.
“For example, if I have 600 children between the ages of 13 and 17, but they only have space for 400, then I’m only able to turn over 400,” Acting Executive Officer Oscar Escamilla stated. “The rest I have to keep in my custody and that number grows every day.”
The San Diego Convention Center also became a temporary facility for migrant kids as authorities work to reunite them with their families or find them a sponsor in the U.S.
HHS officials said many of the children seeking asylum are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.