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Migrant children could be temporarily housed at Fort Lee

'We expect to decide soon,' HHS officials said
Fort Lee
Posted at 7:28 PM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 19:43:39-05

FORT LEE, Va. -- Officials confirmed Friday that the Biden administration is considering whether to house undocumented migrant children at Fort Lee.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials said an assessment will take place to determine if the Army post in Prince George County could be used as a temporary influx care facility.

HHS officials said it may be needed to aggressively address both the coronavirus pandemic and an increasing number of unaccompanied children entering the U.S.

“HHS will utilize all available options to safely care for the children referred to us. These options include both short-term and long-term solutions," officials said Friday in an email to WTVR CBS 6. "In the short-term, we can ensure children do not spend more time in border patrol facilities than necessary by using influx facilities when additional space is immediately needed.”

Officials said the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) division is “aggressively” working toward its “long-term goal of acquiring enough state-licensed beds in our care provider network to reduce the need for influx facilities.”

As a result, the agency notified state and local leaders Thursday that it would be assessing Fort Lee “for potential use as a temporary influx care facility for UC at some point in the future.”

“We expect to decide soon about the feasibility of the DoD site to serve as a potential temporary emergency influx shelter,” officials said in an email Friday.

Fort Lee
Fort Lee

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said they have been contacted about the possibility that the post could be used to temporarily house unaccompanied children.

“Our office has been in communication with the Biden administration regarding their first steps in assessing the feasibility of Ft. Lee as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors,” a spokeswoman for Warner said. “We will continue to be in communication until a decision is made.”

A spokesperson for Kaine said the senator was told HHS officials conducted a site visit at the post this week.

“The assessment was to determine the feasibility of potentially using a portion of Fort Lee as a temporary influx shelter for unaccompanied children waiting for HHS to help them unify with family or a sponsor. These kinds of shelters are overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement which falls under HHS,” the spokesperson said. “Senator Kaine will stay in close contact with HHS to ensure we have the latest information.”

Officials noted that the Army post would “remain unoccupied,” but available if HHS has an “urgent need for additional shelter space” to make sure children “are not kept in border patrol stations for longer than 72 hours.”

The agency currently has two temporary influx care facilities for unaccompanied children in Carrizo Springs, Texas and Homestead, Florida.

Additionally, HHS officials said potentially housing the children at the post would not impact For Lee’s “ability to conduct its primary missions or military readiness.”