GOP lawmaker correct on claim about plan to house illegals on bases

A U.S. House member From Texas maintains that President Barack Obama has dangerous desires for military installations.

U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, opened his commentary in the March 10, 2016, Round Rock Leader: “This is not a joke: the president wants to house illegal aliens on our nation’s military installations.”

Carter, saying that such a move would hinder troops’ effectiveness, wrote: “With the growing global threats of terrorism, how could any president think that housing illegal immigrants on military installations is the right thing to do?”

We wondered what Carter was talking about.

Carter spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said he was referring to an administration move that could have led to children lacking legal residency staying at Fort Hood, which is partially in Carter’s district.

Schiermeyer said Carter learned in late 2015 that the Department of Defense had received a request for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services to provide temporary housing for “unaccompanied alien children.

By email, an HHS spokesman, Mark Weber, confirmed that after the Pentagon heard from HHS, an assessment of Fort Hood took place in advance of children possibly living at the base though, Weber said, that “was determined not to be a viable option at this time.”

On Jan. 6, 2016, Carter posted a statement saying that “after many discussions” with Homeland Security, Fort Hood was no longer on the list of possible temporary shelter locations. And in February Carter introduced the Resist Executive Amnesty on Defense Installations Act, which would prohibit “the use of military installations to house” any “aliens who do not have a lawful immigration status or are undergoing removal proceedings in the United States,” which was referred to the House Armed Services Committee.

Elsewhere, Weber told us, the Defense Department made space available to temporarily house 250 children at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, making possible housing for about 700 children.

Weber further advised that the Homestead Job Corps facility in Florida had been lined up to provide approximately 800 temporary shelter beds for unaccompanied children, if needed.

In May 2016, officials told us by email that “no DoD facilities are being used as temporary shelters, but such facilities could be used in the future if it becomes necessary and provided that such use would not impact DoD operations.”

As we looked into Carter’s claim, administration officials pointed out there’s precedent for children staying on bases—in accord with federal law.

The first time vacant space was used to house children at a military base was in 2012, Weber said, at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and HHS in 2014 opened three temporary shelters on bases to help the government handle a spurt in unaccompanied children apprehended near the border, Weber said.

Thousands of children annually enter the U.S. without legal permission — sometimes without parents or guardians along.

In the 12 months through September 2015, the U.S. Border Patrol reported detaining nearly 40,000 unaccompanied children hailing from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. That count was down from 68,451 children detained in the region the previous 12 months — with many crossers coming in expectation of an immigration hearing and amid fears of violence, especially gang violence, in home countries, we noted in a June 2014 fact check.

Two laws guide how the government manages unaccompanied minors. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 transferred the care and custody of “unaccompanied alien children” to HHS to “move towards a child welfare-based-model of care for children and away from the adult detention model,” according to a “fact sheet” last updated in January 2016 by the Administration for Children and Families.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, under ACF, places children in shelter facilities, foster care or group homes, residential treatment centers or secure care facilities, the agency says. In fiscal 2015, children stayed in an agency-supervised facility for an average of 34 days, according to the sheet.

According to the “fact sheet,” the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008 requires HHS to promptly place each child in the “least restrictive setting that is in the best interest to the child, taking into account potential flight risk and danger to self and others.” That act (which cleared the House without objection) has no proscription on placing children in federal facilities.

Our ruling

Carter said, “This is not a joke: the president wants to house illegal aliens on our nation’s military installations.”

It’s correct that on Obama’s watch, the U.S. agency responsible for temporarily caring for unaccompanied immigrant children has enlisted the Pentagon in occasionally sheltering children (a “minors” detail that didn’t appear in Carter’s commentary). Carter didn’t show nor did we spot an administration push to house adults on such installations. Also unsaid: The temporary housing of children in vacant military facilities is permitted under existing law.

We rate Carter’s claim Mostly True.

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For the full fact-check with all sourcing, please see