The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 16, 2014

Guard: Gruber not expected to house undocumented children

EDMOND — Despite rumors to the contrary, Camp Gruber is not expected to house undocumented children, a National Guard spokesman said Wednesday.

Oklahoma National Guard spokesman Col. Max Moss said no proposals have been made to Guard officials to have the Camp Gruber Training Center house undocumented children.

Moss said the organization has received calls from various media outlets and interested citizens during the past 10 days or so concerning the possibility.

“In an effort to dispel those rumors, the Oklahoma National Guard is announcing today there have been no discussions to date with any federal agencies to bring undocumented children to Camp Gruber,” Moss said.

The Camp Gruber Training Center, located south of Muskogee near Braggs, is the primary training venue for the Oklahoma National Guard.

Beginning last year and specifically in the past few months, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seen an overall increase in the apprehension of unaccompanied undocumented children from Central America in the Rio Grande Valley.

During Fiscal Year 2014, the federal agency reports a total of 57,525 southwest border apprehensions of unaccompanied undocumented children, a 493 percent increase when compared to FY 2013 when there were 9,350 such apprehensions.   

U.S. Customs and Border Protection divides the southwest border into nine  sections — the Big Bend Sector, the Del Rio Sector, the El Centro Sector, the El Paso Sector, the Laredo Sector, the Rio Grande Sector, the San Diego Sector, the Tucson Sector and the Yuma Sector.  

Media outlets have published images of undocumented children at various federal facilities and reports about some of them being transferred to various locations across the country. They include Fort Sill.

On Sunday, Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine spoke about his tour of Temporary Shelter Kilo, which is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services facility housing undocumented children at Fort Sill. U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, accompanied him.

Afterwards, Bridenstine said his concerns were validated regarding the dangers of the journey to the U.S., when some children are exposed to human trafficking, abuse and even death. Bridenstine said he still has not received answers to some of his questions for the HHS about the situation.

They include: Is information about the sponsors taking custody of the children being entered into the Immigration and Detection and Enforcement Database, which is used by ICE for identification? If not, why? And what system is being used? And: What other federal and non-federal entities and contractors are coordinating efforts at Fort Sill? Do they have access to the database or other software being used for identification?

Bridenstine said President Obama’s $3.7 billion spending request will not stop the crisis, and solving it is a matter of national security and national sovereignty.

In requesting the money, Obama said it was needed to “comprehensively address this urgent humanitarian situation.” About half of the resources would go to border security, enforcement and expedited removal of people who don’t qualify for a humanitarian claim, the president said.

Obama said the government also would make investments to further tackle the root problems in Central America.

marks@edmondsun.com | 341-2121, ext. 108

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