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Oklahoma senators, representative react to Fort Sill being used to temporarily house migrant children

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James Lankford (copy)

Sen. James Lankford talks to a reporter Jan. 25 in Washington, D.C. 

A group of Oklahoma congressmen commented Wednesday on parts of an Oklahoma military base being used as an emergency shelter for migrant children.

According to a press release from the U.S. Congress, the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a temporary plan to house up to 1,400 migrant children in several military bases, including Oklahoma’s Fort Sill.

Major Chris Mitchell, a Department of Defense spokesman, said the temporary arrangement is a part of a request for aid filed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The arrangement is expected to last until Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04) expressed concerns about the immigration crisis at the southern border.

“Decades of immigration failures, made worse by the Obama Administration, have created such a crisis on the southern border that it is necessary to turn to military resources to assist unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America,” Inhofe said in the release.

Inhofe said he is confident the Trump administration has a concrete plan moving forward.

“While I am disappointed that Democrats continue to ignore the crisis,” Inhofe said, “I have spoken to the Trump administration ... and am confident that, unlike in 2014, there is an organized, responsible plan for temporarily housing unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill that will not have an adverse impact to readiness or the missions at Fort Sill.”

In the release, Lankford said the ongoing issues are proof that past immigration policies have been ineffective, and the crisis demands attention.

“In 2014, our nation saw a large increase of people crossing the southern border,” Lankford said in the release. "Five years later, hundreds of thousands of (Unaccompanied Alien Children) are illegally crossing into the U.S. in unprecedented numbers. This is further proof that the crisis at the border needs Congress’ immediate attention to address the growing humanitarian crisis and to fix the loopholes in our nation’s immigration process.”

In the release, Lankford said he was disappointed with the apparent lack of direction the last time Fort Sill was used in this emergency capacity.

“When President Obama’s Administration used Fort Sill to house UACs, I toured the facility to see the safe environment provided for unaccompanied minors,” Lankford said, “but I was frustrated by President Obama’s lack of engagement in the problem. We must work with Mexico and fix our own legal loopholes to solve the underlying issues.”

Cole, who represents the congressional district containing Fort Sill, said in the release that a permanent solution to the immigration crisis must be sought.

“The humanitarian crisis at our southern border continues to worsen by the day. In May alone, there were 144,000 migrants seeking entry including far more families and children than ever before,” Cole said in the release. “During this emergency, I fully support HHS using Fort Sill to again house these children ... I will be monitoring the situation closely in the days ahead and working hand in hand with my colleagues in the Oklahoma delegation to ensure things go smoothly at Fort Sill.”

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