WASHINGTON—The Department of Homeland Security has asked the Defense Department to help house and care for “an alien family population of up to 12,000 people,” a Defense spokesman said on June 28.
If Defense doesn’t currently have facilities available, it has been asked to identify department land that it could construct “semi-separate, soft-sided camp facilities capable of sheltering up to 4,000 people, at three separate locations,” the spokesman said.
“DHS prefers the facilities to be built in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, or California to enable access to and supervision of the sites and to comply with the Flores Settlement Agreement’s provision that reasonable efforts be made to place minors in the geographic area where the majority are apprehended,” he said.
The spokesman said Homeland Security wants capacity to house 2,000 people within 45 days, with a timeline for adding additional capacity.
The number of family units apprehended at the southwest border in the last three months was between 8,800 and 9,600 per month. Unaccompanied minors added an additional 4,100 to 6,400 per month.
The request for more family detention space comes after an outcry over the separation of parents and children at the border. The separations occurred after the parents were sent for prosecution for entering the United States illegally, under the zero tolerance policy of adhering to the law.
More than 2,000 children were separated from their parents over about eight weeks, before President Donald Trump issued an executive order on June 20 to halt separations.
However, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the stop is temporary due to capacity issues.
“This will only last a short amount of time, because we’re going to run out of space, we’re going to run out of resources in order to keep people together,” Sanders said on June 25. “Congress still has to step up. They still have to do their job.”