LAWTON — Some officials say a southern Oklahoma city saw economic benefits from a facility that processed children who entered the country unaccompanied.
More than 1,800 unaccompanied immigrant children came through Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma before the facility closed earlier this month, according to federal officials. It had opened in June.
A 2008 law requires that unaccompanied child immigrants from countries that don't border the U.S. be handed over to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours, or three days, of being apprehended.
About 63,000 unaccompanied child immigrants were arrested between October and July. U.S. officials have sought help finding places to house them temporarily.
CEO and president Barry Albrecht of the Lawton-Fort Sill Economic Development Corporation told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/1n9Qkfi ) that Lawton saw a significant bump to its businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, from Fort Sill workers.
Debra Welch, president and CEO of the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce, also said city businesses saw an increase in customer traffic from Fort Sill.
"We know our hoteliers, for example, experienced a surge and that was good news," Welch said. "At times they were full and they struggled to provide enough rooms. I'm quite sure that our restaurants also experienced good business."
But an Oklahoma Tax Commission spokeswoman said it is too early to say what the economic impact was in Lawton.
Jamie Hall is the general manager of Spring Hill Suites and chairman of the Hospitality Association of Southwest Oklahoma.
Hall said average hotel occupancy increased by at least 20 percent in the months that Fort Sill was opened compared with previous years.
"We support Fort Sill," Albrecht said. "And whatever mission our military installation is tasked with, we're going to provide support to them. And for three months, it filled up a lot of hotel rooms here."