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Pentagon says it has received HHS request to house migrant children at two bases

“We’ll analyze it and evaluate it, just like we would any other request for assistance,” Pentagon spokesperson retired Adm. John Kirby said in a news briefing.

Noting that the department had “just received this request,” Kirby added he did not know how many children were requested to be housed and that “there was a site visit to San Antonio last week.”

The HHS request is for a vacant dormitory at Joint Base San Antonio and some land at Fort Bliss, according to Kirby.

When reached for comment, the Department of Homeland Security referred the inquiry to HHS, which CNN has also contacted for comment.

The news comes as an influx of unaccompanied migrant children continues at the southern border. Federal law requires children apprehended at the border to be turned over to HHS — the agency charged with their care — within 72 hours.

But amid constraints resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and the accelerated pace of arrivals, administration officials have been racing to find suitable shelter space for unaccompanied minors, resorting to convention centers and emergency intake sites to transfer them out of Border Patrol facilities, which are intended to process adults, not care for children. There are about 11,300 children in HHS custody.

The US Border Patrol has detained more than 11,000 unaccompanied migrant children between February 28 to March 20, according to preliminary government data reviewed by CNN, already eclipsing the number of minors apprehended in the full month of February.

As of Sunday, there were 822 children held in Border Patrol facilities, akin to jail-like conditions, for more than 10 days, according to documents obtained by CNN. The average time in custody for unaccompanied children continues to hover around 130 hours, exceeding the 72-hour legal limit, though the number of children in Customs and Border Protection custody dropped slightly to just under 4,900, documents show.

The San Diego Convention Center, best known for hosting the annual Comic-Con International convention, will soon be used to house unaccompanied migrant children, the city and county announced Monday. HHS is already using part of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas to shelter about 1,700 children, though the space has capacity for 2,300 children.

CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.

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