The Washington Post reports the Little Rock Air Force Base is one of four military installations that may be used as temporary housing for immigrant children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, according to an email sent to Pentagon staff by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS, which is responsible for providing foster care to such minors, is likely looking for additional housing capacity because the Trump administration plans to begin indiscriminately prosecuting anyone who illegally crosses the border. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said parents will likely be separated from their children in the process; the parents will be sent to jail while the children will be sent to HHS custody. Many of those arriving at the border are families from Central America seeking asylum in the U.S. The Post reports:


“If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law,” Sessions said in a speech last week.

“If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” he added. “It’s not our fault that somebody does that.”

Children held in HHS custody spend an average of 45 days in the government’s care, the HHS official said, and they are provided with educational and recreational opportunities. The agency conducts background checks on potential sponsors for the minors, and in 85 percent of cases the children are released to a parent or other adult relative already present in the United States, the official said.

Officials at the Little Rock Air Force Base confirmed to the Arkansas Times they were aware that HHS is planning to visit the site, but said they had no other details.

“Whatever requests they have, we’ll support,” Lieutenant Margaret Kealy of the 19th Airlift Wing said.


Military bases were used to shelter undocumented children in 2014, when a wave of “unaccompanied minors” fleeing violence in Central America overwhelmed HHS’ capacity. In that instance, though the federal government was responding to an external crisis, rather than making a policy change that will result in more children entering foster care.