Arkansas governor seeks details on taking in foreign kids, will ask Trump on D.C. visit

Posted: May 18, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to discuss with President Donald Trump next week the possibility of housing alien children in central Arkansas.

The prospect of holding unaccompanied foreign children at Little Rock Air Force Base surfaced in media reports earlier this week.

The news follows a recent crackdown on illegal immigration at the Southwest border of the United States by the Trump administration.

Hutchinson, at a Thursday news conference on an unrelated matter, said he'd read media reports about the possibility of foreign children being housed at the military base, and he would "probably need conversations directly with [Trump]."

"I'm anxious to hear more details on that," the Republican governor said.

Hutchinson is traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with Trump on Monday alongside "a handful" of other governors to discuss border security. Hutchinson, a former Department of Homeland Security undersecretary, faces Jan Morgan in the Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday.

[U.S. immigration: Data visualization of selectedimmigration statistics, U.S. border map]

Hutchinson said the meeting was Trump's way of expressing appreciation to states that enlisted their National Guard units to assist Border Patrol agents.

"But it's also an opportunity to have a broader discussion with state governors and with the president on our border-security efforts," Hutchinson said.

The Arkansas National Guard sent one helicopter crew to the border two weeks ago, and it's planning to send a second crew in the coming days, a Guard spokesman said. In total, about 10 Arkansas guardsmen are expected to deploy.

Little Rock Air Force Base officials on Thursday acknowledged that U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials planned to visit the base, but they said a date hadn't been set. Base officials referred additional questions to the federal agency.

A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department didn't respond to phone calls and emails requesting additional information on Thursday.

The Washington Post earlier this week obtained an email sent to Pentagon officials, notifying them that Health and Human Services officials were considering several bases in Arkansas and Texas to determine if they were suitable to temporarily house foreign children who crossed the border without an adult or were separated from their parents.

The federal agency has about 100 shelters in 14 states to house such children until they can be placed into the custody of adult relatives.

The military installations in Arkansas and Texas are being evaluated in case the existing shelters reach capacity. The email obtained by the Post said the site visits were preliminary, and no decisions had been finalized.

"I think it's the administration's way of making sure children are protected and properly addressed, but also to hopefully curtail any misuse of our system as we see the illegal movement across the border spike in the last couple of months," Hutchinson said.

Information for this article was contributed by Jeannie Roberts of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 05/18/2018