Border Crisis: My Visit to Fort Sill, Oklahoma

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Washington, July 15, 2014 | comments
Many of you know I visited an unaccompanied child (UAC) detention center at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma last Saturday. It is clear that many Oklahomans are working hard to make the most of a terrible situation. Any action Congress takes must actively address. A political ploy will only make it worse. Now, I wanted to share some of my thoughts, concerns, and action points from that day.

The Ft. Sill UAC detention facility houses approximately 1,000 male and female teens who have been apprehended crossing the border. The facility is managed by BCFS out of Ft. Worth, Texas, on behalf of HHS. Most of the personnel are private sector employees; neither DHS nor ICE is located on site.  The shelter carries a 1 to 12 ratio of staff to children and is one of the 94 Office of Refuge Resettlement facilities standing up in the country. The Ft. Sill facility anticipates being open into the fall.

Many of the children here arrived with nothing more than a piece of paper containing the name and phone number of their “host.” Caseworkers are to contact the name listed to verify their validity and relationship to the child. It is very likely many of these individuals are in the country illegally, so precise verification and vetting for these children is not possible. Estimates are that at least 25% of the children at the Ft. Sill facility have been sexually abused and the Border Patrol estimates that over 50% of all illegal entrants have been sexually abused on their journey.  All girls over the age of 10 have to be given a pregnancy test.  Public health is engaged with the CDC to track communicable diseases and parasites that are being brought in by this population.

I am disgusted by the fact that these children have become pawns in the President’s political game. This crisis began in June 2012 when President Obama issued an executive order stating he would not deport illegal alien children who came here as minors. Coyotes and traffickers saw this as an open door to sell false hope and false dreams to parents seeking to get their children out of violence in their home countries.

What are we going to do about it? Here are my suggestions. First, absolutely first, we must secure the border. It is the only proper first step. The National Guard should be deployed to the border to provide back up for the Border Patrol. Secondly, President Obama should rescind the June 2012 Executive Order. As the politics of this crisis plays out, we must simultaneously work to protect these unaccompanied children by returning them to their parents in their home countries. How do we pay for it? We deduct the cost from the foreign aid accounts of each of these countries. Securing these countries from gang violence should then become the focus of our foreign aid. 

This crisis can’t be solved with legislative acts from Congress alone. President Obama has to send a strong message that those who illegally enter the United States will be returned home. President Obama must end the release of criminal illegal aliens. President Obama must direct his administration to use their authority to crack down on fraudulent asylum claims. President Obama must provide the border patrol with access to federal lands. 

Many of the Central American children who have come here were abused or injured along the way. Some even had friends who died on the trip. Many of the children we spoke with talked about going from facility to facility confused and bewildered. They are uncertain of where they will end up or even if they will survive the rest of their journey. These are souls made precious in the eyes of the Almighty who deserve compassion. I am convinced the most compassionate thing for these children is not a life given over to someone who can’t be vetted and secured; who a quarter of the time will throw that child into human trafficking. The most compassionate thing we can do is to return these children to their families and homes. We must find a way to humanely repatriate these children back to their country of origin, secure our border, and stem this tide before it is too late.

I also wanted to share with you an interview I gave today on Fox News. Please feel free to share with your networks.

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