More and more immigrant children are coming on their own to the United States with a number of them being younger than 12 years old. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials anticipate 60,000 unaccompanied children will arrive in the country this year, up from 6,560 in fiscal year 2011.
HHS officials say violence rising in Central America is driving that number up. Many children are escaping abuse, others are fleeing criminal gangs and violence, some are victims of trafficking or abandonment, and others seek to reunite with their families in the U. S.
Fort Sill will be the home of about 600 immigrant children, at least for now. The Defense Department is loaning the facilities in Oklahoma to the HHS to house the children. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved the use of Fort Sill for up to 120 days.
The buildings housing the children normally serve as training barracks. They include beds, showers, and office space. HHS representatives supervise the children and provide education and recreational opportunities until they can be reunited with families or placed in foster care.
This is the third DOD installation HHS is using. Some 1,200 children are under HHS’s care at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas and Naval Base Ventura County in California.
The DOD’s priority is to assist HHS in providing safe and secure temporary facilities for unaccompanied children. Many understand most of these poor children have no choice but to escape. However, should we be responsible for taking care of these children? Should there be a more permanent solution that doesn’t depend so much on the DOD?
Can we help these children achieve a safer and better life without the military getting involved? Or do you think the DOD should be a part of the process of helping the immigrant children? What can we do to improve the system?
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