MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

June 20, 2014

Fallin, Inhofe visit Fort Sill to inspect immigrants’ housing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — About 600 immigrant children being housed in Army barracks at Fort Sill appeared to be healthy and in good spirits on Friday, visiting with case workers and playing games such as “Twister,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said after touring the facility.

“We want to make sure the children are being humanely treated, and they are,” Fallin said. “They have a nice dorm with beds, cots, set up, and a cafeteria. The boys and girls, since they’re teenagers, are separated.”

An 8-foot-tall, chain-link fence has been erected around the facility, Fallin said.

Federal officials say about 600 children between the ages of 12 and 17 are being housed at Fort Sill, and Fallin said up to 1,200 children may end up there. The children, from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, were detained after trying to enter the U.S. illegally. They are among the more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors taken into custody at the border since October.

Fallin toured the barracks on the east side of Fort Sill with several officials, including U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe. The media was not allowed to accompany Fallin, but she briefed reporters after the visit.

She said federal policy calls for the teens to be reunited with their parents or families, or to be subject to deportation proceedings.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which oversees the children’s care, about 85 percent of them will be reunited with their families. The average length of stay is about 35 days.

Fallin and Inhofe, both Republicans, criticized President Barack Obama for the surge in unaccompanied minors coming across the border.

“Since the president created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012 and instructed DHS to ‘exercise discretion,’ the average number of unaccompanied children arriving at our borders has surged by 100 percent, and we are being warned it is only going to increase,” Inhofe said in a statement.

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