A Joint Base Lewis-McChord sign is seen at the entrance of the base. (Abner Guzman / Air Force)
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The Department of Health and Human Services is considering temporarily housing as many as 600 undocumented children at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, said Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson, a Defense Department spokesman.
A wave of children has been crossing the border illegally recently. Most of them have fled violence from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The Defense Department is already housing about 2,300 children at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; Naval Base Ventura County, California; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Crosson said.
HHS would be able to house undocumented children for 120 days at Joint Base Lewis-McChord if it decides to use the base, Crosson said.
The children would be housed at an old summer camp facility at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a congressional staffer said. HHS has hired a private contractor to provide meals and other services for the children. No base personnel would be used to take care of the children.
The number of children making their way illegally into the U.S. has surged since the fall. Between October 2012 and October 2013, the Department of Homeland Security apprehended 24,000 unaccompanied children, Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on June 20.
“In eight months since that time, the number has jumped to 47,000 additional unaccompanied minors,” Biden said during his visit to Guatemala. “We’re also seeing a rise — generally mothers, who are traveling with their children from Central — Mexico to the United States.”