The Biden administration is considering a Virginia military base as a possible location to house unaccompanied migrant children, the Pentagon confirmed on Friday.
“Upon request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Army coordinated a site assessment at Fort Lee, Virginia for HHS personnel to determine if certain facilities at Fort Lee may be suitable for providing temporary housing for unaccompanied children,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Mitchell said in a statement to The Hill.
Mitchell noted that the Defense Department has not yet received a formal request for assistance from HHS to use the Army facility, which is about 30 miles south of Richmond.
Reuters first reported on the base being identified as possible housing for unaccompanied minors, who have increased in number at the southwestern border in recent months.
HHS-run shelters typically house the children before they are released to parents or other sponsors in the United States, but the rising number of migrants coming across the border has put a strain on the department’s facilities.
Border agents have apprehended thousands of migrants in Biden's first six weeks in office, many of whom are unaccompanied minors.
The surge has already prompted the administration to plan to convert two family detention centers in Texas that was used briefly by the Trump administration, and is reportedly seeking to get the Federal Emergency Management Agency involved to up resources near the border.
HHS said it must “aggressively” find solutions for what to do with the children, according to a notice from the department seen by Reuters.
To address the issue, the White House on Thursday announced that administration officials will travel to the southern border in the coming days to assess the situation.
The United States previously used military bases to house unaccompanied children during the Obama administration in 2014. Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.; and Fort Sill, Okla., housed roughly 7,500 unaccompanied minors from Central America. Those shelters closed after four months.
And the Trump administration in 2019 asked the Pentagon to find space to house up to 5,000 immigrant children.