The Trump Administration Won't Hold Migrant Kids at a Former Japanese Internment Camp After All

Fort Sill was one of 70 facilities that held Japanese Americans during WWII.
Fort Sill was one of 70 facilities that held Japanese Americans during WWII.

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The Trump administration has decided not to turn part of Fort Sill, an Oklahoma Army base that served as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II, into a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children.

Evelyn Stauffer, a spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families, said the change in plans was due to a recent decrease in unaccompanied kids arriving at the border, as well as faster processing times for those already in the U.S.


“As such, the UAC Program does not have an immediate need to place children in influx facilities,” Stauffer said in a statement. She added that operations at the base in Lawton, Oklahoma, will now be in “warm status,” meaning the Department of Health and Human Services will still have access to the base in case it’s needed in the future.

For more than a month, Native American and Japanese American groups protested the planned shelter after news reports that the administration was going to open it. The base was used as a prison for the Apache chief Geronimo and more than 100 members of his tribe at the end of the 19th century; during World War II, it was one of more than 70 camps for Japanese Americans.

READ: HHS is shutting down the model facility for migrant kids it showed off to journalists

We want to remind America that this horrible thing that took place during World War II is being repeated,” Satsuki Ina, a child psychotherapist and activist who was born in a different camp, previously told VICE News.

The Obama administration used Fort Sill as an influx shelter in 2014. Like the Trump administration, the Obama administration opened the shelter to address a sudden increase in unaccompanied kids arriving at the border.

The number of people apprehended at the border fell 28% in June, according to federal data. Customs and Border Protection classified 7,378 as unaccompanied in June, compared to 11,489 the previous month.

READ: Migrant father who drowned with his daughter was extorted hours before crossing

The downturn in border crossings — largely a result of the summer heat — was also the motivation behind the admin’s decision to shut down the influx shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas, which had just opened in early July. Like Fort Sill, Carrizo Springs will remain "warm" in case it’s needed in the future, Stauffer said.

Cover: Protestors march outside Fort Sill in protest of plans to place migrant children at the Army post in Lawton, Okla., Saturday, July 20, 2019. (Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via AP)