LAWTON — Nearly 600 young people who crossed the southern U.S. border illegally are in good condition in temporary housing at Fort Sill, where they are being treated well while efforts are made to find their parents, Gov. Mary Fallin said Friday after taking a tour of the converted military barracks.
The children, ages 12 to 17, are part of an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. They began arriving at the Army post late last week after being picked up by Border Patrol agents. Another 135 were to arrive at the facility shortly. Up to 1,400 young people are expected to be housed there eventually, said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who also was on the tour, along with Terry Cline, Fallin’s health and human services secretary.
Fallin said that while many of the young people likely had a harrowing trip getting to the United States, they appear well now. They’ve received medical screenings, their clothes are clean, they are well fed and are given activities and games to play. Some of the young people were outside playing soccer, while some of the girls were inside playing the game “Twister.” Some were doing arts and crafts.
There is one adult for every 12 young people. They are separated into male and female sections.
The governor said she fears that as more and more children come in, the potential for problems increase. She said a better job needs to be done of securing the nation’s border and placed the problem squarely on the shoulders of President Barack Obama.
“President Obama’s lax policy on securing our borders has caused an illegal immigration crisis in our nation,” she said. “We have sent a signal that if you want to come to the United States as an unaccompanied child or teenager you can come without any repercussion. This is a major catastrophe for our nation.”
No reporters were allowed in the facility.
Military installations in San Antonio and Ventura County, Calif., also are assisting in providing temporary housing for the young people.
White House officials have called the flood of young illegal immigrants “an urgent humanitarian crisis” driven by the violence they face in their home countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala along with misinformation and exploitation from smugglers looking to profit from taking them north.
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