It will be mid-August mostly likely before Lawton’s Fort Sill begins to hold migrant children, according to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office.
In June, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Fort Sill would be used to house migrant children who have been living in Customs and Border Patrol facilities in Texas.
Late last month, HHS officials told The Frontier that migrant children would not be moved to Fort Sill until “the facilities are prepared to safely house and care for incoming minors.” Fort Sill is expected to hold up to 1,400 of the migrant children, officials said.
On Thursday, Donelle Harder, a spokeswoman for Stitt, said that the Governor’s office has been told the children will not arrive to the military base until August.
“They are still in the beginning stages of finding contractors and doing background checks,” Harder said. “It seems at a minimum four weeks or more.”
In an email, HHS said it had no timeline for the children’s arrival.
“The arrival of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) has yet to be determined,” the email stated. “HHS will continue to keep local and congressional officials informed during the process required before the property could potentially be used.”
It won’t be the first time unaccompanied children have been held at the base. Fort Sill housed more than 1,000 children in 2014 during President Barack Obama’s administration.
Many state republicans, including then-Gov. Mary Fallin and Sen. Jim Inhofe, criticized the detention of children at the time. Fallin blamed Obama’s “failed immigration policies,” as did Inhofe, who said that border issues had been “made worse by the Obama administration” and had created “a crisis on the southern border.”
Fallin said at the time that it was “alarming to have 1,200 children in a military Installation.”
It’s unclear how many children will be moved to the base this time, though officials have said it could hold up to 1,400. Officials from HHS have not said if the children will all be moved to the base at once or if they will be slowly phased in.
Inhofe said in a press release in June, after the plan to bring the children to Oklahoma was announced, that he had spoken to President Donald Trump’s administration as well “local base officials” and was “confident” there was an “organized, responsible plan for temporarily housing unaccompanied minors.”
The plan, Inhofe said, would “not have an adverse impact to readiness or the missions at Fort Sill.”
Fort Sill also served as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, one of about a dozen campsites to do so. When it was announced this summer that Fort Sill would again house unaccompanied migrant children, protests were held outside the base that included World War II internment survivors.
Fort Sill was also used in the 1800s as a relocation camp for Native Americans.