TULSA - Children who have entered the country illegally without adults accompanying them will begin arriving at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in the next couple of days, but neither military nor federal civilian officials can say how much the operation will cost.
One published account claims it will cost $252 per child per day, but the report did not cite how it arrived at that figure, and when questioned, the Ft. Sill public information representative actually chuckled.
"I saw that same thing and I have no idea where they got that from," Nancy Elliott told KRMG. "I've not seen any officially on a dollar figure, I have no idea where that came from."
She referred us to the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.
While the DHHS public information office didn't apparently have time for an interview, they did respond to an email request for information.
Kenneth Wolfe, Deputy Director for the Office of Public Affairs at The Administration for Children & Families, a division of HHS, wrote:
"We do not have per-child cost estimates available. The FY 2014 appropriation for the Unaccompanied Alien Children program is $868,000,000. As you may know, Fort Sill will be the third military base (Lackland and Ventura are the current ones) used as a temporary shelter for the UAC program. We also have around 100 regular/permanent UAC shelters."
According to the ACF's website on Unaccompanied Children's Services, the number of children entering the country illegally without adults has skyrocketed.
In Fiscal Years 2003-2011, the annual average of unaccompanied children was 6,775. In 2012, that jumped to 13,625; FY 2013 saw 24,668; and the total for FY2014 is estimated to be around 60,000.
Elliott told KRMG that they are expecting up to 1,200 children, who may stay at the Fort on and off until October, with new children coming in and others leaving during that period.
She stressed that local concerns about the kids ending up at the local mall or in the streets are unfounded; they will be kept on the base at all times.
The building being used to the house the children is a barracks, and was sitting empty waiting for upgrades to its HVAC system and other improvements.