GREAT FALLS – Malmstrom Air Force Base is being considered for future use as a possible temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.
An email from Pat Fisher, the media specialist for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Administration for Children and Families, states the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is expanding its capacity to “provide temporary shelter for unaccompanied alien children (UAC).”
Children, 17 or under, who are unaccompanied by parents or other legal guardians and who have no lawful immigration status in the United States and are apprehended by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are transferred to the care and custody of ORR, according to Fisher.
“ORR is legally required to provide for the care and custody of all UAC referred to ORR until they are released to appropriate sponsors, usually a parent or relative, while their immigration cases proceed,” he wrote.
Fisher stated ORR is facing a dramatic spike in referrals of unaccompanied migrant kids. Based on anticipated growth in referrals of unaccompanied migrant children from DHS to HHS, the department is preparing “for the need for high bed capacity to continue.”
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) will conduct site assessments of unused DoD property for potential use as temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant kids at two locations: Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls and Fort Sill Army Base near Lawton, Oklahoma.
If selected, Malmstrom Air Force Base would remain unoccupied, but available for use if there is an urgent need for additional shelter space such as a natural disaster that impacts operating capacity at another shelter, according to Fisher.
Fort Sill Army Base would be assessed for use as a temporary emergency influx shelter in advance of hurricane season for evacuation purposes in the event of a natural disaster. Fisher’s email stated Fort Sill served as a temporary emergency influx shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in 2014 as a result of a migration surge.
Department of Defense officials will join HHS staff as they tour the vacant properties available for potential future use. HHS will determine if they will use the sites, according to Fisher.
The effort will not impact DoD’s ability to conduct primary missions or impact military readiness, the email stated.
HHS use of vacant DoD facilities is on a fully-reimbursable basis under the provisions of the Economy Act, according to Fisher.
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