Pentagon moves to find housing for 5,000 migrant children

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a request to identify places to potentially house up to 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

In March, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requested Pentagon support to identify locations to house unaccompanied migrant children through Sept. 30.

Migrant arrivals on the U.S. border with Mexico have been building steadily for months, driven by growing numbers of children and families, especially from Central America.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis told Reuters Shanahan approved that request on Tuesday. Davis said HHS had made no request to actually house the children so far.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he was not reviving a policy of separating children from parents who had illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, one day after media reports that his administration was considering putting it back in place.

In February Trump declared a national emergency to help build a border wall, which would allow him to spend money on it that Congress had appropriated for other purposes. Congress declined to fulfill his request for $5.7 billion to help build the wall this year.

The Republican president's latest pronouncements, including a threat to impose auto tariffs on Mexico, are in response to the rising number of migrants.

Trump has previously turned to the military to help with his border crackdown.

Last year, the U.S. military was asked to house up to 20,000 immigrant children but the space was never used.

Last month the Pentagon said it had shifted $1 billion to plan and build a 57-mile section of "pedestrian fencing," roads and lighting along the border with Mexico.

There are about 6,000 active duty and National Guard troops near the border.

18 PHOTOS
New mother's journey in the migrant caravan
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New mother's journey in the migrant caravan

Newborn Alvin Reyes sleeps next to his mother Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, at a hospital in Puebla, Mexico, November 13, 2018.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Maria Reyes, 6, wakes up next to her father Alvin Reyes and mother Erly Marcial, who is eight months pregnant, and her brother David, 2, after they spent the night with fellow migrants in Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 6, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Alvin Reyes, 39, touches his newborn son Alvin, next to his wife Erly Marcial, 21, at a hospital in Puebla, Mexico, November 13, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, organises her belongings next to her husband Alvin Reyes, 39, and their sons David, 2, and newborn Alvin, in the dormitory of a church where they are staying in Tijuana, Mexico, December 4, 2018. =

'(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, takes a bath in the river with her son David, 2, in Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 6, 2018.

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, lies on cardboard while she stays with her family and fellow migrants in Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 6, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, carries her newborn son Alvin with her children, Maria, 6, and David, 2, while her husband Alvin Reyes buys bus tickets to Mexico City, at a bus station in Puebla, Mexico, November 13, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrants Erly Marcial, 21, and Alvin Reyes, 39, receive the Mexican birth certificate for their newborn son Alvin, in Puebla, Mexico, November 13, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, plays with her daughter Maria, 6, in the river in Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 6, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Alvin Reyes, 39, talks with doctors about the condition of his wife Erly Marcial, 21, who is eight months pregnant, at a hospital in Puebla, Mexico, November 12, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, takes a bath in the river next to her son David, 2, while they stay with fellow migrants in Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 6, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, is carried to a hospital on a stretcher in Puebla, Mexico, November 11, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, and her husband Alvin Reyes, 39, board a truck as they hitch a ride towards the U.S., in Santo Domingo Ingenio, Mexico, November 8, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, rests with fellow migrants on the road that links Tapanatepec and Santo Domingo Ingenio, near Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 7, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Eight months pregnant Honduran migrant Erly Marcial, 21, walks with her husband Alvin Reyes, 39, carrying their children David, 2, and Maria, 6, on the road that links Tapanatepec and Santo Domingo Ingenio, near Tapanatepec, Mexico, November 7, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Alvin Reyes, 39, visits his wife Erly Marcial, 21, who is eight months pregnant, at a hospital in Puebla, Mexico, November 12, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Honduran migrant Alvin Reyes, 39, embraces his son David, 2, next to his daughter Maria, 6, in front of the police station in Pijijiapan, Mexico, November 4, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

A man jogs next to the border wall between Mexico and the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, December 10, 2018. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

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