WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden in his first press conference Thursday said Fort Bliss has been approved to hold 5,000 beds for unaccompanied migrant children.
Wednesday, the Pentagon approved the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s request to use an area of land on Fort Bliss in El Paso to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children.
The Pentagon’s top spokesperson, John Kirby said officials will construct a suitable temporary housing facility on the land.
The Pentagon also approved the HHS request to use a vacant dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas for the same purpose. The Department of Defense said it will provide HHS officials access to the locations immediately to prepare to receive unaccompanied migrant children as soon as preparations are complete.
Kirby said Wednesday that the request is through the end of the calendar year. Officials said the facilities will not negatively affect military training, operations, readiness or other military requirements.
Kirby also confirmed to ABC News there was a site visit at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado to see if it could serve as another site for HHS to house unaccompanied children.
ABC News reports he referred questions about how many children might be housed at each facility to HHS.
Kirby stressed that the care of the children, as with past requests, will be handled by HHS personnel, though the Department of Defense may assist in contracting personnel. However, what’s different this time is housing children under Covid restrictions.
“We haven’t done it in a pandemic,” said Kirby. “So one of the challenges is going to be, how do you deal with the potential for Covid and the impact of infections in the population of the children, but also at the installation. So we have to factor in what’s going on with the pandemic that’s a unique challenge that, that we haven’t faced before.”
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