WASHINGTON (AP) — The government said Monday it will soon close three emergency shelters it established at U.S. military bases to temporarily house children caught crossing the Mexican border alone. It said fewer children were being caught and other shelters will be adequate.
A shelter in Oklahoma at Fort Sill is expected to close as early as Friday, the Health and Human Services Department said. Shelters in Texas at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and in California at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme will wrap up operations in the next two to eight weeks, agency spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said. About 7,700 children had been housed at the three military bases since shelters there opened in May and early June. They stayed an average of 35 days.
Since Oct. 1 more than 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been caught crossing the Mexican border illegally.
A 2008 law requires that unaccompanied child immigrants from countries that don’t border the United States be handed over to the Health and Human Services Department within 72 hours of being apprehended. The children are cared for by the government until they can be reunited with a relative or another sponsor in the United States while they await a deportation hearing in immigration court.
The crush of Central American children caught at the border in recent months has strained resources across the government and prompted President Barack Obama to ask Congress to approve an emergency $3.7 billion spending bill to deal with what he described as a humanitarian crisis. Congress adjourned for the August recess without acting on the request.
Last month the Homeland Security Department reported that the number of child immigrants crossing the border alone had started to decline, from as many as 2,000 each week in June to about 500 each week in mid-July. Administration officials said at the time that multiple factors likely contributed to the decline.
The number of people caught crossing the border illegally typically declines during the hottest summer months.
Administration officials have said as many 90,000 child immigrants could cross the border by the end of the budget year in September.
The military base shelters could reopen if the number of young border crossers spikes again in the near future, Wolfe said.
Photo Highlights: President Obama Chicago Farewell Speech
President Barack Obama makes his final farewell speech in his hometown of Chicago. Arriving at O'hare airport on Airforce One Tuesday, early evening was First Lady Michelle Obama, daughter Malia and Vice President Joe Biden along with wife, Jill Biden.
Making a final journey as the 44th President of the United States, expressways and local South Side streets were cleared as traffic stood at a complete when the 20-vehicle caravan made its way to Valois Restaurant in Hyde Park. There, President Obama conducted a one-on-one interview with NBC anchorman, Lester Holt before proceeding to give his farewell speech at McCormick Place.
Nearly 20,000 attendees packed the nearly standing-room only space in the East wing of the McCormick Place as VIP attendees sat upfront to hang onto the President's every word. There were various groups that traveled from far and near to be a part of history including celebrity sightings from Sharon Stone to Empire's Jussie Smollett--local and state dignitaries. Opening up the ceremony was a special performance by Hip hop/R&B singer, BJ the Chicago Kid showcasing belting out the national anthem is a smart blue suit.
Once President Obama hit the stage, the electric energy of emotions ran throughout the audience. At times, the crowd's applause was so loud that it impossible to hear him but there were moments that silence rippled throughout the venue--knowing this would be his last time addressing his hometown as Chief of Staff.
In his signature style of class, poise and honor--he addressed the various strides that he and his administration has made over the last eight years in protecting America's democracy. His emotions got the best of him when he addressed his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia who sat in the front row along with Vice President Joe Biden, wife Jill and his mother-in-law--Marian Shields Robinson.
<p class="p1"><span class="s1">“Malia and Sasha, under the strangest of circumstances, you have become two amazing young women, smart and beautiful, but more importantly, kind and thoughtful and full of passion. You wore the burden of years in the spotlight so easily. Of all that I’ve done in my life, I’m most proud to be your dad.”</span></p>
<p class="p1">After the speech, the Obama family took time out to walk along the barricades, greeting and shaking hands with supporters and friends. The scene was definitely historic and we knew it was the end of an era of class that will not be duplicated in the White House for a very long time.</p>
<p class="p1"><a href="http://www.twitter.com/globalmixx">Follow Mary L. Datcher on Twitter</a></p>
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