A federal agency said Monday it has no plans to use Fort Knox as a temporary shelter for migrant children, offering assurances after U.S. Sen. Rand Paul signaled that the Army post had been considered for that.
Health and Human Services spokesman Kenneth Wolfe confirmed that the agency had no plans to use Fort Knox as a shelter for children who have crossed the border illegally.
Paul had told a business summit earlier Monday that "it looks like" some of the unaccompanied migrants might end up at Fort Knox temporarily.
But two other Kentucky congressmen said they had been told by HHS officials the base had been removed from consideration.
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"The Department of Health and Human Services makes the final decision on which facilities to use to house these kids," Stephen George, communications director for U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, said in an email. "The Department of Defense previously submitted Fort Knox to HHS as part of a list of possible locations with the capacity to house the kids. But again, that decision is left to HHS, which has confirmed it is not considering Fort Knox."
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Bowling Green, reiterated that.
"When I first heard the rumor about unaccompanied children going to Fort Knox, I immediately contacted Health and Human Services," he said in a statement. "I was told that Fort Knox was looked at as an option, but it had already been removed from consideration."
Guthrie said he thought the House would act in upcoming weeks on legislation to "improve border security and establish a process for reuniting these children with their families in their home countries."
A Pentagon spokesman said Fort Knox initially was on a short list of installations offered by the military as possible sites. It was "kind of taken off the table" due to ROTC summer training that make the post unavailable until at least September, said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Tom Crosson.
Three military installations — one each in Texas, California and Oklahoma — are being used to temporarily house some of the young migrants, he said.
Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers have entered the United States illegally. Most are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
"What should be done is humanely feed, clothe and try to find the appropriate people to return them to their country," Paul said Monday. "But you need to do that, not because you're heartless, but because you can't send a signal to everyone in Central America that it's OK to come."