Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs is being considered by the Department of Defense to host unaccompanied migrant children, and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), whose district includes Colorado Springs, is reportedly not happy about the idea.
“It is truly disturbing that the Biden administration would entertain the possibility of using Peterson Air Force Base as a location to house unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants,” Lamborn told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Peterson is critical to our national security and is home to both Space Command and Northern Command — defense entities with can’t-fail missions that occur daily.”
In the Gazette article a Department of Defense spokesperson responded that the Pentagon only offers this kind of support when it has “no impact on primary missions.”
Since President Joe Biden took office there has been an increase in apprehensions of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A press release by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition included several immigrant advocacy groups and Colorado Springs residents urging the community to create a welcoming environment for the children.
Reverend Nori Rost, local faith leader and member of the Accompaniment & Sanctuary Coalition of Colorado Springs (ASC COS), an immigrant rights advocacy coalition, said in the press release that she was deeply concerned by type of rhetoric Lamborn used.
“It is important for our community, local elected officials, and legislators to educate themselves on these issues instead of perpetuating incomplete narratives about unaccompanied minors and the broader immigrant community,” Rost said.
Despite the increase in unaccompanied minor apprehensions and the backlog of asylum requests, the number of unauthorized immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is lower than it was in 2019.
Whether Peterson Air Force Base is selected, the discussion provides an opportunity to reset the conversation in Colorado surrounding immigration, according to Silvia Hernandez, Colorado Springs resident and a leader of Grupo Esperanza, a grassroots group of undocumented people in the Springs.
“This moment is a chance for Colorado to prioritize humanization over criminalization,” Hernandez said. “As organizers, we’ll do our utmost to ensure our state takes that chance.”
Even if unaccompanied migrant children are housed at Peterson, Jerima King, also from ASC COC, says that more should be done.
“Temporarily housing unaccompanied minors at Peterson is certainly preferable to holding them in a more carceral setting, like a detention center.” King said. “Our immediate priority must be to reunite these children with their families as soon as possible.”
Military bases in Virginia and Texas have also been surveyed as options to temporarily house migrant children.
Lamborn’s office has not yet returned a request to comment on the response from immigration advocacy groups.