Pentagon approves request to build tents to house 7,500 migrants

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to build temporary housing at six locations along the southern border to hold at least 7,500 adult migrants, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

The May 9 request from DHS asked the Department of Defense (DOD) to “construct temporary facilities to house and care for a minimum of 7,500 total single adult male and female aliens that have been processed by Customs and Border Protection and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement/Enforcement Removal Operations custody,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Chris Miller.

“This support is being provided to help DHS address the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border,” Miller added.

The DOD will conduct site assessments in the next two weeks on land identified by DHS to determine the scope, cost and timeline to build the temporary housing in Tucson and Yuma, Ariz., as well as in Tornillo, Donna, Laredo and Del Rio, Texas.

The statement stresses that military personnel will not operate the facilities and will only erect the tents, which will be loaned by the Pentagon.

“Operating the facilities remains the responsibility of DHS,” Miller said.

The request was approved the same day acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told lawmakers an increase in funds to the agency would have prevented the recent deaths of migrant children. He said he is asking for more money in the fiscal 2020 budget as the influx of people at the border is draining resources and making it difficult for the agency to be able to adequately respond.

"The crisis is exceeding the resources provided," he said.

His testimony came days after the announcement that a Guatemalan teen was the fifth minor to die at the border since December.

This is not the first time the administration has asked the Pentagon about finding and providing housing for migrants. The DOD in April approved a March request from the Department of Health and Human Services to find housing for as many as 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children.

And the Pentagon already has 4,364 troops stationed at the border. They are expected to remain there until at least September.

Customs and Border Protection said earlier this month that it expects more than 500,000 migrants to cross the border this fiscal year.

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