Unaccompanied immigrant children taken into custody at the U.S.-Mexico border will not be coming to Fort Knox in Kentucky.
That’s according to an e-mail from the U.S. Department Health and Human Services sent to WFPL, which contradicts a statement Monday by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at a business event in Louisville.
Speaking at the Kentucky Chamber Business Summit, Paul said the federal government was sending some of the children who had been apprehended to the Kentucky military installation.
“Right now the border is completely wide open. Anybody can walk across,” Paul said. “And in fact, we’ve made it so that if you walk across and you’re not from Mexico they’re actually sending, we’ve made it so that they’re going to be shipping them to Fort Knox. Some of them to Fort Knox.”
Paul’s comments created a frenzied back and forth over whether the military base would potentially house the children. After Paul walked back a portion of his statement, a senator staff member told reporters the Army informed them Fort Knox had been under review to potentially take in a certain number of children.
A Paul spokesman did not respond to WFPL when asked whether the senator spoke with HHS officials regarding the use of Fort Knox before or after speaking with Army officials.
Federal law states the final decision is left up to the Health and Human Services, and not the military.
“While only a few facilities will ultimately be selected, a wide range of facilities are being identified and evaluated to determine if they may feasibly provide temporary shelter space for children,” said HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe. “HHS’ Administration for Children and Families has no plans to use Fort Knox as a temporary Unaccompanied Alien Children program shelter.”
About 57,000 children fleeing parts of Central America have been taken into custody this year alone.
Most of the minors come from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to escape violence in their own countries in what’s being called a humanitarian crisis.
Kentucky Congressmen Brett Guthrie said when he “first heard the rumor” about Fort Knox, which is in his district, he immediately contacted HHS.
“I was told that Fort Knox was looked at as an option, but it had already been removed from consideration,” Guthrie said in a released statement. “At this time, administration officials have assured my office that Fort Knox is not currently being considered to house these children, but we continue to be in regular communication with HHS.”
Congress passed a law six years ago requiring the Department of Homeland Security to accept the children and turn them over to HHS.
The Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act provides that unaccompanied children are housed at a location determined by HHS until they go before an immigration judge.
“There’s been some false information out there this afternoon regarding Fort Knox housing some of the children fleeing violence and arriving without their parents at our southern border,” said Stephen George, a spokesman for Congressman John Yarmuth.
“The Department of Health and Human Services makes the final decision on which facilities to use to house these kids. HHS confirmed to Congressman Yarmuth’s office (Monday) that Fort Knox is not under consideration.”