Oklahoma Republicans worry about use of military bases for child immigrants

Oklahoma lawmakers urged the Obama administration on Monday to reconsider a decision to expand housing at U.S. military bases for child immigrants from Central American who are apprehended crossing the border. 

“President Obama needs to stop putting the onus on our military to manage his crisis, and he needs to prioritize solutions that will quickly reunite these children with their families in their home country,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R-Okla.) said in a statement Monday. 

The Pentagon on Friday approved a Health and Human Services request to expand housing for up to 5,000 children from the current 3,600 ceiling at U.S. military bases, including the Fort Sill Army base in Lawton, Okla.

The Pentagon also extended an original 120-day commitment in May for housing the children at military bases through January 31, 2015. 

Inhofe said there was “significant concern” among the Oklahoma delegation that the housing “is turning into a commitment beyond what was originally proposed.”

He said new Army recruits are scheduled to use the housing in the fall, and that the use of the buildings for the Central American children “will soon begin to impede on the base's vital responsibility to house and train new recruits.”

“While our military bases have been used before to temporarily aid migrants and refugees, we now have an administration that is asking our military to do more with less resources than ever before,” Inhofe said.

Other Oklahoma Republicans blasted the administration's decision, saying the expanded housing only incentivized more to come. 

“Rather than acknowledge the problem at hand, the president has chosen to process individuals and allow them to stay in the United States, causing even more juveniles to make the journey,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). 

Oklahoma Republicans Reps. Jim Bridenstine, Markwayne Mullin, Frank Lucas and James Lankford also joined in the statement. 

The White House defended itself on Monday, saying that the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border was dropping substantially, from an average of 355 per day in June to 150 per day over two weeks in July. 

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said efforts to tell people of the dangers of the journey, and that children will not be allowed to stay, have played a part in lowering the figures.

 

Justin Sink contributed to this story.

 

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