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Biden Administration To House Unaccompanied Migrant Children At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland And El Paso's Fort Bliss

Sign to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland where the investigation continues into MTI misconduct.
Sign to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland where the investigation continues into MTI misconduct.

This story was updated on March 25.

The Biden administration officially plans to use military bases in San Antonio and El Paso to house a growing number of unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody.

The Department of Defense approved a request to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children at its Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and at El Paso’s Fort Bliss.

In a Wednesday statement, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the Department of Health and Human Services will 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 on Tuesday said 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, but 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 reports for Texas Public Radio from the border city of Laredo where she covers business issues from an area that is now the nation’s top trade hub. She knows Texas well. Méndez has reported on the state’s diverse communities and tumultuous politics through internships at the Austin American-Statesman, The Texas Tribune and The Dallas Morning News. She also participated in NPR’s Next Generation Radio program while studying at the University of Texas at Austin. At UT, she wrote for The Daily Texan and helped launch diversity initiatives, including two collaborative series on undocumented and first-generation college students. One of her stories for these series won an award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She spent the last year reporting for The Dallas Morning News as a summer breaking news intern and then as a fellow in the paper’s capital bureau in Austin. She is a native of Guanajuato in Central Mexico.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Joey joined the Texas Public Radio newsroom in October of 2011. Joey graduated from Roosevelt High School and obtained an associate of applied science degree in radio and television broadcasting from San Antonio College in 2010.