More US troops likely to be sent to the southern border acting defense secretary says

12 APR 19 12:05 ET

(CNN) — Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said Friday that the Pentagon has yet to receive a formal request for additional support from the US military on the southern border but expects that his department will be providing additional support.

Shanahan also wouldn’t say if troops will be involved in detaining migrants or running detention facilities for migrants — only adding, “We haven’t received any details on that, but I expect an increase in support will occur.”

President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he is “going to have to call up more military” to the southern border, adding to the administration’s attempts to address a historic increase in the number of migrant apprehensions.

While a formal request hasn’t been made to the Pentagon, two US defense officials told CNN Wednesday that Shanahan was summoned to the White House late Tuesday to discuss the situation at the southern border.

In the meeting, officials discussed whether the military could build tent cities to detain migrants on the border and whether the US could legally run such migrant camps, NBC News reported.

Currently, the military has about 3,000 active duty and 2,000 National Guard members assisting in the border effort, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis said on Wednesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services had requested the assistance of the Defense Department given the influx of migrants and, specifically, uptick of unaccompanied children at the southern border.

“In FY 18, HHS conducted preliminary site visits to DoD properties at Goodfellow, Bliss, Dyess, and Little Rock to determine the potential for possible future use for temporary emergency shelters for unaccompanied alien children. At this time no decision to use any of these properties has been made,” HHS spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer said in a statement Wednesday.

CNN first reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement — which is within HHS and tasked with caring for migrant children who arrive at the border without a parent or guardian — is preparing for the arrivals of unaccompanied children in their care to double this fiscal year.

“Based on the anticipated growth pattern in referrals of (unaccompanied alien children) from DHS to HHS, HHS is preparing once again for the need for high bed capacity to continue,” Stauffer said. “As we have over the past six years, HHS once again requested the assistance of the Department of Defense (DoD) to help respond to the migration influx of UAC along our southern border by identifying and making available space for up to 5,000 UAC temporary influx beds in one or more DoD installations in the Continental United States.”

“The FY 19 request is similar to the 2015, 2016 and 2017 request made to DoD by then Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to provide up to 5,000 temporary beds for unaccompanied children on DoD installations,” she added.

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