Officials: DHS requests 12,000 beds to detain families

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security has formally requested space for up to 12,000 beds at a military base to detain families caught crossing the border illegally, the Defense Department said today.

The request seeks 2,000 beds to be up and running in the next 45 days, and the remaining space to be available on an as-needed basis, the Defense Department said in a statement.

The facility must comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement's family residential standards, as well as a 1997 agreement known as the Flores settlement, which governs how children are housed in immigration custody. Those standards require air conditioning, libraries, private showers, plus medical, dental and mental health facilities. Those rules also state there must be freedom of movement within the facility during the day.

The facility will be housed at a military base, but it's not clear yet which one. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday that two bases had been identified to house migrants: Goodfellow Air Force Base near San Angelo, Texas, and Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, which comprises more than 1 million acres in Texas and New Mexico.

In its statement, the Defense Department said if facilities are not available, it has been asked to identify available land and construct semi-separate, soft-sided camp facilities capable of sheltering up to 4,000 people at three separate locations.

The Department of Homeland Security prefers the facilities to be built in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico or California to enable access to and supervision of the sites, the Defense Department said.

Doing so also would comply with the Flores agreement's provision that reasonable efforts be made to place minors in the geographic area where the majority are apprehended, the Defense Department said.

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