The Department of Defense plans to house thousands of Afghan allies who aided the U.S. military abroad at Fort Bliss, an Army base near El Paso, Texas, where illegal migrant children were detained in dismal conditions.
Around 30,000 Afghan allies are expected to be relocated to Fort Bliss and Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, the Department of Defense confirmed to Fox News Sunday night. Federal officials staffing Fort Bliss allegedly ignored meeting the basic needs of migrant children detained at the site, according to a whistleblower complaint, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported in July. It’s unclear whether all of the issues raised by the whistleblowers have been addressed.
“We want to have the capacity to get up to several thousand immediately, and want to be prepared for the potential of tens of thousands,” Department of Defense spokesperson John Kirby told Fox News. “Bliss and McCoy have the capability right now — and what’s advantageous is with a little bit of work, they could increase their capacity in very short order.”
The move is a reversal from the Biden administration’s previous policy. On July 8th, President Biden told me the US government could not evacuate Afghan translators to the US to await visa processing like some migrants at the southern border.
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) August 16, 2021
The Afghan refugees will reportedly sleep, eat and have access to medical care at Fort Bliss as their Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) are processed, Fox News reported. SIVs are available for Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. government as translators or interpreters, according to the State Department.
“The Department will provide temporary housing, sustainment, and support inside the United States for up to 22,000 Afghan SIV applicants, their families, and other at-risk individuals,” DOD spokesperson LTC Chris Mitchell told the DCNF Monday. “The US Northern Command will coordinate details with the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services, as necessary.”
“The Department will provide protection, air transportation, and processing of up to 30,000 at-risk individuals from Kabul,” Mitchell added. “This total includes embassy personnel, US citizens, Afghan SIV applicants, and other at-risk individuals. 8,000 of these will be transported to a third country for processing, with an additional 22,000 being transported to the United States.”
Hundreds of Afghans tried to flee the country Sunday after Kabul fell to the Taliban and people were recorded holding on to the exterior of U.S. airplanes leaving Kabul on Monday. Some of those who latched on to the landing gear fell from the sky when it was retracted after the plane took off.
The Department of Health and Human Services had around 2,500 unaccompanied migrant children in its custody at Fort Bliss as of Friday, according to a statement provided to the DCNF on Monday. It’s unclear where at the base the State Department plans to house thousands of Afghan allies.
Federal officials allegedly ignored requests to purchase underwear for migrant children detained at Fort Bliss. A senior manager replied, “I don’t have time for this [expletive],” when approached about using federal credit cards to purchase necessary supplies for the kids.
Migrant children at Fort Bliss were served raw, bloody chicken; slept in large white tents on stacked cots, and were placed on suicide watch after instances of self-harm, the DCNF reported.
“The care and well-being of children in our custody continues to be a top priority for HHS,” an agency spokesperson told the DCNF on Monday. “Currently, children at the Emergency Intake Site at Fort Bliss meet with a case manager weekly and we have close to 60 mental health and behavioral counselors on-site working with the children. It remains our policy to swiftly report any alleged instances of wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities.”
The Pentagon did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
By Kaylee Greenlee
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