Cole Opposes Use of Fort Sill as Juvenile Detention Facility for Illegal Minors

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) released the following statement after it was discovered that Fort Sill Military Base in Lawton is expected to begin housing at least 600 unaccompanied minors who illegally immigrated to the United States. Since fiscal year 2011, the number of these individuals, usually from Central America, has grown from 6,000 to 66,000 last year. By next year, this number is expected to climb even higher to 127,000. 

Usually between 13 and 17 years old, these individuals enter the United States and go into custody of border patrol agents, who cannot release them to detention facilities since they are minors. While no official announcement has yet been made by the Administration, Fort Sill could begin receiving hundreds of illegal juvenile unaccompanied minors as early as June 10th. 

"I have no doubt that the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army and the command and soldiers at Fort Sill will execute any order they are given or task they are assigned professionally and humanely,” said Cole. “I am equally confident that the Lawton community will do whatever it can to support the soldiers at Fort Sill as they go about discharging the duties which they have been assigned.

"However, I am disappointed and dismayed that the Administration has failed to provide timely notification to the Oklahoma congressional delegation and to state and local officials about its plan to use facilities designed to house our troops as a juvenile detention center for illegal unaccompanied minors. This plan is an inappropriate use of military facilities. It will inevitably strain and limit facilities and resources that are intended for the use of service men and women.

"I am both astonished and upset that I and others have learned about the Administration's plan from unofficial sources, rather than through a process of official notification The manner in which we have been informed of this decision allows almost no time to protest its implementation, to consider alternative solutions or to prepare for the arrival of hundreds of illegal aliens at a facility which is neither intended nor designed for their use. In my view, this is incredibly unfair to the American military. Using Fort Sill and other military bases to house illegal immigrants is simply an inappropriate use of military facilities. Moreover, I am concerned that what begins as an emergency measure could, over time, evolve into a permanent juvenile detention center for those who have entered the country illegally. This could result in a confusion of missions at what is the one of America's premier military installations.

"It is rumored that the Administration intends to house those juveniles detained at Fort Sill with family members already in this country or through our foster care system. That, to me, is de facto amnesty. It would be far more appropriate to return those who have come to the country illegally to their country of origin as quickly and humanely as possible. Otherwise, we will simply encourage this flood of unaccompanied juveniles to continue and expand in the years ahead," concluded Cole.

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Contact: Sarah Corley (202) 225-6165