US military to house immigrants on two Texas bases: Officials

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis confirms that two military bases will be used to house immigrants taken into custody at the US-Mexico border.
An entrance to Fort Bliss in Texas, US, seen in a photo taken on June 25, 2018.
An entrance to Fort Bliss in Texas, US, seen in a photo taken on June 25, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The US military is preparing to house immigrants at Fort Bliss and Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, US officials told Reuters on Monday (June 25), in the latest sign of a growing US military support role for President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

On Sunday, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said the US military was preparing to build temporary camps at two military bases to house immigrants but did not name the facilities.

He confirmed the proposal but would not offer any specifics.

He said the military is not involved in the political aspects of the matter: "For us, it is a logistics support effort."

One US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was expected that one of the bases would house immigrant families and another immigrant children.

The official said a formal decision and announcement was expected later on Monday.

The CNN reported that the Department of Homeland Security will ask the Pentagon this week to approve plans to potentially house more than 7,000 unaccompanied children at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas and 4,000 additional migrant family members at Fort Bliss, according to an administration official.

The official emphasized that these are planning numbers, and it is not clear those numbers of people will need to be housed.

Fort Bliss is an Army base in El Paso, Texas while Goodfellow Air Base is located in San Angelo, Texas.

Once Mattis approves the DHS plan, the Pentagon will hire contractors to build temporary structures, reported CNN.

Bliss is expected to be all tents, while Goodfellow may have a combination of tents and hardened structures.

The Department of Health and Human Services would be in charge of any unaccompanied children housed on the bases, according to CNN.

In the face of outrage at home and overseas over his crackdown on illegal immigration, Trump was forced last week to abandon his policy of separating children from parents who are apprehended for illegally crossing the US-Mexico border.

The US military, and Mattis in particular, have stressed that it is simply providing logistical support to the Department of Homeland Security, which deals with immigration issues.

Last week the U.S. military said it had been asked by the government to get ready to house up to 20,000 immigrant children.

Trump has previously turned to the military to help with his border crackdown. Earlier this year, US National Guard forces were dispatched to border states to help tighten security.