Defense Secretary James Mattis said his department is working “in close alignment” with the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen “as they have come to us, asking us to build out temporary camps on two of our bases” to house thousands of immigrant children.
DHS is reportedly seeking to house more than 7,000 unaccompanied migrant children at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas with plans to also house some 4,000 migrant family members at Fort Bliss.
Mattis stressed that the Pentagon wouldn’t be getting into the heated politics of the immigration debate but is approaching the assistance from the standpoint of “logistics support.”
“We’ve done it for victims of natural disasters, whatever forced them out of their homes,” Mattis told reporters en route to Alaska on Sunday. “So DHS is in the lead. You’ll have to talk to DHS about policy and that sort of thing. We’re in a logistic support response mode to the Department of Homeland Security.”
“Providing shelter for people without shelter, we consider that to be a logistics function that is quite appropriate,” he added.
Military policy stipulates that the services do “not get involved with contact with illegal migrants,” the secretary stressed. “They do not get involved physically. They do not have any collaboration. That is done by the professionals of ICE and the Department of Homeland Security.”
“This is something that we can do — again, whether it be refugee boat people from Vietnam, people who have been knocked out of their homes by a hurricane. Absolutely, it’s appropriate the military provide logistic support however it’s needed.”
President Trump tweeted Monday, “Hiring manythousands [sic] of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go – will always be disfunctional [sic]. People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally. Children brought back to their country…… If this is done, illegal immigration will be stopped in it’s [sic] tracks – and at very little, by comparison, cost. This is the only real answer – and we must continue to BUILD THE WALL!”
Asked about whether Trump was asserting that asylum claims wouldn’t be able to have their cases heard before a judge, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that “just because you don’t see a judge doesn’t mean you aren’t receiving due process.”
“Also, the president would like to see us stop people from illegally entering the country at all. We’d like to have secure borders,” she said. “…The president would certainly like to see more expedited removal. But, ultimately, the president would like to see our border secured so that we don’t have all of these problems to begin with.”