Mattis confirms 2 Texas bases to house immigrants

An Army base and an Air Force base in Texas have been chosen to house migrants amid the Trump administration's immigration crackdown.

Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed Monday that Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base will be used for temporary shelter for the undocumented immigrants.

"We'll provide whatever support the Department of Homeland Security needs in order to house the people that they have under their custody," Mattis told reporters traveling in Alaska.

Mattis said he could not confirm any specifics on how the bases will be used.

"Week by week, the numbers are obviously dynamic, so we'll have to stay flexible in our logistics support for Department of Homeland Security," he added.

Reports citing unnamed defense officials said one base would house migrant children, while the other would house migrant families.

The decision to house immigrants on military bases comes as the Trump administration has been engulfed in controversy over its "zero-tolerance" policy on illegal immigration.

The policy, announced in April, refers all illegal border crossers for criminal prosecution and has resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents.

Seeking to stem the controversy, President Trump last week signed an executive order intended to end family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border. The order in part asked the Pentagon to provide facilities to house immigrants.

Following the executive order, the Pentagon sent a memo to Congress saying it had been asked to prepare for up to 20,000 temporary beds.

Even as Mattis announced which bases are going to be used, he sought to distance the military from the controversy over Trump's immigration policies. He reiterated that the military has a history of housing those in need, such as Vietnam War refugees.

"We're not going to get into the political aspect," Mattis said. "Providing housing, shelter for those who need it is a legitimate governmental function. This one I recognize the political aspects of it, but for us, it's a logistics support effort."

Using military bases to house minor immigrants is not unprecedented.

The Obama administration in 2014 used Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California and Fort Sill, Okla., to house 7,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America.