U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers on Tuesday criticized a federal proposal to temporarily house undocumented immigrants at the Center for Domestic Preparedness, saying the Anniston facility was ill-matched to the task.
In a letter to the secretaries of the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments, Rogers wrote that he was “deeply concerned” about the proposal. The CDP, however, will not be considered as a processing facility, according to an emailed statement Tuesday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s external affairs department.
“CDP’s facilities were briefly considered as part of a broad review of potential facilities for temporarily sheltering unaccompanied children,” the statement reads. “There are no available facilities at CDP to support this mission, so CDP is not currently under consideration for sheltering unaccompanied children.”
The federal government has been struggling to deal with an influx of undocumented immigrants crossing the border with Mexico in recent weeks, especially unaccompanied children. In 2013, nearly 40,000 unaccompanied juveniles were apprehended on the Southwest border, according to Border Patrol statistics. The Obama administration has said it is concerned about the crossings as a humanitarian crisis, and want to provide aid to children before deciding whether they should be deported.
A presidential memorandum published June 2 stated that the federal government would ensure all the resources, including “personnel, equipment, supplies, facilities, and managerial, technical, and advisory services” would be used to provide proper care for unaccompanied children.
Rogers’ criticisms come in the wake of an announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services that different facilities would be assessed to determine their usefulness in transitioning unaccompanied and undocumented children from the Department of Homeland Security to HHS.
“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,” the FEMA statement reads.
On Tuesday, Rogers responded to the proposed assessment in a letter to the heads of HHS and Homeland Security, of which FEMA and the CDP are part. In an email, his spokeswoman wrote: “Rep. Rogers wants to find a way to return them to their home countries — the same way we send adult illegal immigrants home.”
Rogers then criticized the HHS plan in a letter written to the federal officials addressing the use of the CDP.
“The CDP is a world-class first responder training facility; however, it was in no way built to house immigration detainees, much less children,” he wrote. “CDP is over 900 miles from the Rio Grande Valley where many of these border crossings occur, and transporting illegal immigrants so far away from the border and their home countries would seem to make this crisis worse.”
Some of the facilities used by the CDP now were used to house Louisiana residents fleeing the destruction of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Lisa Hunter, external affairs director for the CDP, wrote in an email statement that the facilities were used as temporary relief shelters before they were used by the CDP.
“Some of those who were affected by Hurricane Katrina were temporarily housed in the dorms that were part of the Noble Training Facility Complex, but that was prior to the CDP gaining control of that facility and those dorms,” she wrote.
In his letter to the secretaries, Rogers chastised the Obama administration.
“I am concerned the housing of many of these unaccompanied minor children who arrived here under the false belief they would be granted legal status — a belief challenged little if at all over the years by the Obama Administration — could put deep and challenging stresses on the local community’s health system,” he wrote.
Rogers last week joined many Republicans in urging the Obama administration to send National Guard troops to the border to help prevent immigrants from crossing.
Jesse Smith, the Democratic nominee running against Rogers in the November election, opposed the congressman’s view on the immigration issue and noted that children are at the center of the debate.
“A man never stands so tall as when he reaches down to help a child in need,” Smith said. “That is what the incumbent has failed to do and the anger he has towards this issue is disturbing to me. These are kids we are talking about. ”