Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The White House want to keep migrant children detained at the US-Mexico border at Fort Benning
The Trump administration is considering sheltering unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended along the southwest border at Fort Benning, the sprawling Columbus-area military installation, according to the Pentagon and U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
It is unknown how many children could be housed there and for how long. But Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services in April for the Pentagon to find space for up to 5,000 at military bases.
Officials from both departments are preparing to tour "unused property" at Benning Wednesday, said a Health and Human Services official. Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Fort Sill in Oklahoma are also being considered, according to the Pentagon.
The move comes as the government is scrambling to care for tens of thousands of children under 17 who are crossing the U.S.-Mexican border without parents and who have no legal status in the United States.
Once they are apprehended, the children are transferred to the care of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement. That office cares for them until they are released to sponsors — usually parents or other relatives — while their immigration cases are heard.
As of April 30, the agency had received referrals for about 40,900 such children this fiscal year, an increase of more than 50% from the previous year.
A child stands on a pavement adorned with chalk drawings at the El Chaparral U.S.-Mexico border crossing, in Tijuana, Mexico, on Wednesday, May 2, 2018.(Associated Press/Hans-Maximo Musielik)
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told reporters Friday that illegal crossings along the southwest border are overwhelming his department's resources and that federal immigration authorities now have more than 80,000 people in custody, "a record level that is beyond sustainable capacity with current resources." Since December, five Guatemalan children have died after being apprehended by U.S. border agents.
During a news conference in London with British Prime Minister Theresa May Tuesday, President Donald Trump vowed to press forward with 5% tariffs on all goods imported from Mexico next week as a way to clamp down on illegal border crossings. The tariffs are set to go into effect Monday.
"I think it's more likely that the tariffs go on, and we'll probably be talking during the time that the tariffs are on, and they're going to be paid," Mr. Trump said, adding that Senate Republicans would be "foolish" to try and block the move.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned, "There is not much support in my conference for tariffs, that's for sure."
Fort Benning on Tuesday referred questions to the Health and Human Services and Defense departments.
Health and Human Services said in a prepared statement sent to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday that its Office of Refugee Resettlement "is expanding its capacity to provide temporary shelter for unaccompanied alien children."
"Due to the crisis on the southern border, ORR is facing a dramatic spike in referrals of" unaccompanied children, the agency said.
Maj. Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman, said sheltering the children at Fort Benning would have no impact on the military's readiness or its "ability to conduct its primary missions."
Former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson learned of the government's plans from The AJC Tuesday.
"It is tragic to know that there are that many children who are separated from their families in the custody of the United States, and it just speaks to the fact that we have to do something about our immigration challenge and what is going on at our border," said Tomlinson, a Democrat who is running for Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue's seat.
She added she was heartened to learn the military installation is being considered as a shelter site "because I know the great men and women at Fort Benning. If they will have anything to do with it, they are going to get extraordinary care and attention."
Perdue said Tuesday he was unaware of the Fort Benning visit, and that he would need to consult with federal officials before weighing in on the viability of the military base.
"We've got to do something because these minors are in a situation down there right now where we've been overwhelmed," he told The AJC.
©2019 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
WATCH NEXT: The Border Mission In A Nutshell
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.