U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla. 4) introduced an amendment to the fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations Act Thursday that would prohibit using military bases to house the recent wave of unaccompanied minors who have arrived in United States.
On Friday, Cole and several other House leaders sent a letter to President Obama opposing his handling of of the situation, and calling on him to deter a rising tide of undocumented immigrants coming over the border.
Cole's Fourth Congressional District includes Fort Sill, where nearly 600 children are being housed - mostly teenagers from Central America detained while trying to enter the United States illegally.
Speaking on the House floor Thursday, Cole said he's concerned military facilities aren't the best place to keep these undocumented children.
"They're not designed for that purpose, they're not equipped for it, they've gotten very little notification of it," Cole said. "You don't bring outsiders onto a military installation, who have no business being there, and in addition also their caretakers."
Cole also said he's concerned about the added cost to an already strained military budget. He's worried about mission creep, saying there's a risk the temporary situation could become permanent. Cole says the recent wave of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors in recent years is the result of Obama Administration policy failure, rather than a humanitarian crisis.
"We’re essentially incentivizing the flow of this population by not returning the unaccompanied juveniles to their countries of origin quickly," Cole said. "Indeed, once they arrive in the United States, we try to find sponsors for them in this country, and they effectively stay here permanently. That’s not what we do, by the way, with Mexican juveniles. If you’re a 16-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, we return you immediately, and we’ve had no similar spike in that particular population coming across the border."
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin plans to tour the housing facilities at Fort Sill Friday, seeking to find out how long the children will be there and what resources they're being provided.
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