MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
To another story meanwhile - President Trump's policies on migrant families, and they continue to fuel outrage across the country. There were protests today in Brownsville, Texas, to denounce the detention of migrant families apprehended at the southwest border. Hundreds also marched in Washington before staging a sit-in at a congressional office building.
(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Singing) Saying free all families now. Saying free all families now.
KELLY: And more rallies are planned in dozens of locations across the country on Saturday. But the Trump administration is not backing down. In fact, the Department of Defense has announced plans to build tent encampments on two military bases in Texas. These tent encampments would be to house migrant families.
Well, joining me now with a little more detail is NPR's Joel Rose. Hey, Joel.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hey, Mary Louise.
KELLY: So we have talked before. We knew that the Trump administration has been exploring this idea of housing migrants on military bases. What do we know about how this plan is taking shape?
ROSE: The Pentagon says that the Department of Homeland Security asked the Defense Department to house and care for what they refer to as an alien family population. The number of migrants crossing the southern border - southwest border and asking for asylum has been going up in recent months. So this plan would house up to 12,000 people across three different locations.
A U.S. official tells NPR that a camp for migrant families would be located at the Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas. And another site, Goodfellow Air Force Base outside San Angelo, Texas, has been selected as a site for migrant children. And the official said they'll start building large tents there after the July 4th holiday. And the Department of Defense has been asked to prepare for 2,000 beds within just the next 45 days.
KELLY: Joel, what's the history here? Has the U.S. government - has the Defense Department ever done something like this?
ROSE: Well, the Obama administration did house children at Fort Bliss during a previous surge in the number of migrants coming into the country, and it set up temporary family shelters as well. But immigrant rights activists say this time is different for a couple of reasons. One is the sheer scale. And they're also concerned that the administration is planning for long-term detention in these facilities.
The administration has been ordered to reunite about 2,000 children who were separated from their parents at the southwest border within the next 30 days and even less for younger kids. And there's a concern among activists that those families are now going to be reunified and then detained in these in these tent camps on military bases.
ROSE: And all of this is likely to be fought about in court going forward.
KELLY: And then outside of court, we mentioned these protests today, protests against family separation and detention. Are these protests also targeting this plan for the military bases?
ROSE: Yeah. The protesters sound horrified about this plan. Some have been comparing these military tent camps to Japanese internment camps that the government set up during World War II. Activists argue that these migrants today are asylum-seekers, many of them women and children who do have a legal right to make asylum claims in the U.S. Faiz Shakir is the national political director of the ACLU. And he spoke today at a protest in Brownsville, Texas.
FAIZ SHAKIR: No families belong in jails. No families belong in military bases. When you suggest that you're going to put them in military bases, you're suggesting that they're terrorists. You're suggesting that somehow they've committed some terrible, heinous crimes. These are people who are fleeing gangs and violence.
ROSE: The Trump administration of course paints a very different picture of lawlessness and crime at the border, and clearly wants to stem the tide of asylum-seekers who are showing up.
KELLY: All right, that is NPR's Joel Rose reporting on all the latest twists and turns happening at the border and with immigration policy. Joel, thanks very much.
ROSE: You're welcome.
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