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Senators Lankford, Inhofe, Congressman Cole on Temporary Plan to House Unaccompanied Minors at Fort Sill

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) made the following statements after the US Department of Defense (DOD) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced their temporary plan to house unaccompanied minors at military installations, including Fort Sill.

“In 2014, our nation saw a large increase of people crossing the southern border. As a result, President Obama declared a ‘humanitarian crisis’ that required Ft. Sill to house Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs),” said Lankford.

“Five years later, hundreds of thousands of UACs are illegally crossing into the US in unprecedented numbers. This is further proof that the crisis at the border needs Congress’ immediate attention to address the growing humanitarian crisis and to fix the loopholes in our nation’s immigration process. The President has requested an additional $4.5 billion this year on top of the $1.3 billion already spent just to care for UACs. When President Obama’s Administration used Ft. Sill to house UACs, I toured the facility to see the safe environment provided for unaccompanied minors, but I was frustrated by President Obama’s lack of engagement in the problem. We must work with Mexico and fix our own legal loopholes to solve the underlying issues,” Lankford concluded.

“Decades of immigration failures, made worse by the Obama Administration, have created such a crisis on the southern border that it is necessary to turn to military resources to assist unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America. While I am disappointed that  Democrats continue to ignore the crisis, I have spoken to the Trump administration and local base officials and am confident that, unlike in 2014, there is an organized, responsible plan for temporarily housing unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill that will not have an adverse impact to readiness or the missions at Fort Sill,” Inhofe said.

Inhofe continued, “This crisis was caused by President Obama and Congressional Democrats. President Obama’s policies invited these minors to come, and the Democrats’ continued blockade against common sense immigration reforms, including building the wall, have perpetuated it. I’m going to continue working with the President to enforce our immigration laws and secure the border as I have consistently done – it is our only hope of resolving the ongoing immigration crisis.”

“The humanitarian crisis at our southern border continues to worsen by the day. In May alone, there were 144,000 migrants seeking entry – including far more families and children than ever before,” said Cole. “This surge of migrants is overwhelming our usual facilities and resources, including the capacity for housing and caring for thousands of vulnerable unaccompanied children arriving each month. While the announced use of Fort Sill as a shelter for these children is only temporary, it certainly highlights the dire need for a permanent solution to manage the border crisis.

“During this emergency, I fully support HHS using Fort Sill to again house these children, as was done in 2014 during the Obama Administration. I will be monitoring the situation closely in the days ahead and working hand in hand my colleagues in the Oklahoma delegation to ensure things go smoothly at Fort Sill. I have every confidence in those involved and tasked with the challenging job ahead, but I also have no doubt that our leaders at Fort Sill as well as local officials and the Lawton community will be welcoming and supportive. We know we can face this situation successfully and compassionately because we have already done so once before,” Cole concluded.

Lankford has been consistent in his call to fix the loopholes in the legal immigration process. In May, Lankford introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the care and safety for UACs. During a recent hearing, Lankford questioned acting DHS Secretary on the humanitarian crisis at the US-Mexico border. After the federal government reopened and the border security dispute ended, Lankford voted to support President Trump’s emergency declaration at the southern border because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

DOD has also secured a memorandum of understanding with HHS to ensure that any funds expended by DOD in connection with this mission are reimbursed by HHS. This will preserve precious resources for our men and women in uniform.

HHS has also committed to providing tours and briefings to elected officials, stakeholders, and press.

Lankford is a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.