Armed Services Ranking Members Adam Smith and Jack Reed: Congress Must Have Sufficient Oversight Over Military Bases Housing Migrant Children

Washington, D.C. – In light of reports that military bases are being considered to house migrant children, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed sent the following letter to Defense Secretary Mattis requesting assurances that Members of Congress will be able to conduct necessary oversight over any Department of Defense sites used to house migrant children.

Ranking Member Smith released the following statement on the letter, “I will continue to do everything I can to stop this administration’s inhumane policy toward children and their families. It’s unconscionable that we are even in this position in the first place and we must hold the federal government accountable for the care of children within their custody.”

“President Trump’s new Executive Order doesn’t solve anything. Congress must exercise meaningful oversight and the Pentagon and the administration must be transparent about the true costs of housing these individuals on military bases,” said Senator Reed.

June 20, 2018

The Honorable James N. Mattis

Secretary

U.S. Department of Defense

1100 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We understand that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is considering using Department of Defense (DOD) sites to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children. We write to request assurances that Members of Congress will have access to any DOD lands and facilities, including those on military bases, being used to house unaccompanied migrant children to facilitate appropriate and necessary Congressional oversight.

Pursuant to requests from the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS, it is our understanding that DOD provides information about potential facility and land options for HHS to consider for housing unaccompanied migrant children. While we recognize that these children are in the custody of HHS, we expect DOD to work with HHS to ensure that Members of Congress will be able to exercise Congressional oversight over any housing of unaccompanied migrant children on DOD property. Given the expected continued increase in the number of children in the custody of ORR, and the importance of ensuring appropriate care and safety of these children, it is essential that Members of Congress have access to these facilities even in circumstances where short-notice is provided.

The Administration’s “zero tolerance policy” is simply cruel and inhumane. It is unconscionable that children are being separated from their parents at the border, many of whom are legally seeking asylum or humanitarian aid from violence they face in their home country. This abhorrent policy does nothing to improve our national security or address the factors that led these families to flee their home country. It is detrimental to our standing in the world and directly counter to the values our country was founded on. We will continue to fight against the separation of children from their families.

Congress must be able to conduct direct oversight to ensure these children are receiving the care they need and deserve while they are in the custody of the federal government. Given the Administration’s continued implementation of this objectionable policy, we request your confirmation that Members of Congress will have access to DOD sites selected by HHS for temporary housing of migrant children.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Adam Smith                                                                            Jack Reed

Ranking Member                                                                   Ranking Member

House Armed Services Committee                                     Senate Armed Services Committee