Homeless veterans still a priority.
Fort Bliss complex in Doña Ana County will soon house children who immigrated alone to the United States.
The children are scheduled to arrive at the temporary shelter beginning the week of Sept. 5. The facility will have the capacity for 1,800 beds, although the actual number of children who will stay there is difficult to predict, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Toby Merkt said.
As required by law, the children will live at the shelter while HHS officials identify adults who can care for them while their immigration cases proceed in court.
While at the shelter, the children don’t attend local schools. The facilities don’t require any military or U.S. Department of Defense personnel, Merkt said.
“This effort has no impact on the ability of the Department of Defense to conduct its primary missions nor on military readiness,” Merkt said in an emailed statement. “The impact of these shelters on the local community is minimal. Children spend 35 days on average at the shelters and do not integrate into the local community while in HHS custody. They remain under staff supervision at all times.”
The shelters have one adult staff member for every eight children, in addition to medical and other employees, Merkt said.
Only children who have been medically screened and vaccinated by HHS will arrive at the facility; they won’t come directly from Border Patrol facilities, according to an HHS fact sheet.
“All of the children receive a TB test and girls over age 10 receive a pregnancy test,” the fact sheet states.
Fort Bliss is not the first local installation to house unaccompanied children. Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo sheltered migrant children in January and February.
That temporary shelter officially closed earlier this month, Merkt said.
HHS has more than 100 shelters in a dozen states, including another temporary shelter in Homestead, Fla.
The shelters are used to temporarily house the thousands of unaccompanied children detained while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border each month, most fleeing extreme gang violence and poverty in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The Central American countries have some of the highest murder rates in the world.