The possibility of detained immigrants living on military bases in the southwest has sparked wide and heated debate among the military community. The opinions range from military spouses offering to teach English to these temporary residents to ones suggesting that those entering illegally should be immediately returned to their countries of origin.
According to Department of Defense statements, DoD have been asked to provide up to 12,000 beds on military bases for detained immigrants.
“The Department of Defense has received a request for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security to house and care for an alien family population of up to 12,000 people. DHS requests that DoD identify any available facilities that could be used for that purpose,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
DoD is preparing to receive up to 2,000 immigrants before September 2018. Possible locations and housing arrangements are being scouted now by military leaders. Secretary of Defense James Mattis has identified Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo and Fort Bliss in El Paso as locations available to house unaccompanied immigrant minors.
Possible additional locations in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California are also being considered.
Facebook Post Sparks Debate Among Military Spouses
Many military spouses commented on a Facebook post from Military Spouse magazine stating that military bases might soon be used to house detained immigrants. Approximately 70 comments were made on the original post. However, this Facebook post has been shared at least 18 times from that first post alone.
One military spouse referenced the words on the Statue of Liberty, from the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Many Facebook comments made by military spouses shared a similar mentality.
Several commenters shared specific ways that they would be willing to help, from housing immigrants personally to providing respite child care for immigrant parents or teaching ESL in the temporary housing facilities.
Counter-arguments suggested that people considering immigrating to the United States to stay in their own countries. Some stated that those seeking asylum should not cross U.S. borders without proper authorization and paperwork.
According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services department, those seeking asylum must be physically present in the United States at the time of their application. In order to be considered for humanitarian asylum, applicants need to cross over a U.S. border or arrive at a port of entry.
Commenters also suggested that those entering “illegally” or seeking asylum should be immediately returned to their countries of origin.
Will Housing Detained Immigrants on Military Bases Impact Military Families?
Lots of individuals were upset over the possible impacts on military base housing or on-base child care centers.
No mention of placing detained immigrants in military family housing or allowing access to CDCs has been mentioned. Multiple sources state that immigrants will be housed in temporary facilities. Costs incurred by the DoD for providing temporary housing would be reimbursed.
Other comments included references to housing issues faced by veterans and their families, as well as by other Americans facing hard times. Some Facebook commenters suggested that instead of placing immigrants into the temporary shelters, that they instead be used for homeless Americans.
Several individuals raised concerns about security and potential issues. They pointed out that many military facilities are closed, and require a DoD ID card to enter or for non-DoD civilians to be escorted.
They are concerned that immigrants may be accidentally able to pick up confidential information and disseminate it to possible threats to the base or the U.S. military.
All indications from previous reports are that detained immigrants would be housed in temporary shelters separate from military facilities and family housing.
Many commenting threads became heated and insults were exchanged from individuals on both sides of the issue.
Dozens of commenters reflected that, based on some comments, they were disappointed with the reaction in the military spouse community.
Others found hope in the empathy of their peers.
Many found kindred spirits who agreed on common points of view.
Susie Schwartz, the wife of retired Air Force General Norton Schwartz and a vice president at Military Spouse magazine’s publisher Victory Media, chimed in with a call for kindness.
“I hope we can all show compassion for each other,” Schwartz wrote in her Facebook comment. “Within our own community and with others.”