ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – Holloman Air Force Base is set to offer temporary shelter for hundreds of immigrant children from Central America as federal officials prepare for an influx of immigrants expected in the spring and summer of 2016.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that (http://bit.ly/1Ss2zHX) Holloman Air Force Base plans to house as many as 400 children beginning in January. The children are set to be housed in a vacant building on a base previously used by the 4th Space Surveillance Squadron.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter directed Holloman Air Force Base to be the first of three temporary shelters to open in New Mexico, Colorado and Florida. These shelters are in addition to those already opened outside Dallas in December.
The children, currently in the care of The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, come from Central American countries including Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, said Mike Espiritu, president of the Almagordo Chamber of Commerce.
Most of the children in shelters are between the ages of 14 and 17 and stay for an average of 32 days. During their stay, they receive schooling and on-site medical care until they can be placed with sponsors as they wait to hear whether they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. or will be deported.
Espiritu said he will act as a liaison between federal officials and the Holloman Air Force based to ensure the children’s needs are met.
“We’ll be meeting with Holloman next week, and hopefully we’ll have more information that we can provide to the public,” he said.
The federal government is trying to avoid a repeat of the summer of 2014, when so many children crossed the border into the U.S. from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador that they were forced to stay in Border Patrol facilities, which aren’t designed to house children. That also diverted officers from securing the border, even though the law requires children under 17 who enter the country alone to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services.