Rep. Jim Bridenstine, a freshman congressman and Navy pilot whose military awards decorate his Capitol Hill office, holds a special affection for fellow servicemen.
The Oklahoma Republican also is sympathetic to Central American children who are being smuggled into the United States from Mexico to reunite with family.
Bridenstine witnessed the intersection of those two disparate demographics when, on July 12, he toured a processing center for unaccompanied migrant children at the Fort Sill Army post in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Bridenstine had originally been barred from entering the federal facility housing illegal immigrants from Central America, but finally, 12 days after his first attempt, earned access into the living quarters.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Bridenstine called for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the processing centers, to stop housing minors at U.S. military bases.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week approved a request from HHS to house an additional 5,000 minors at military facilities, including Fort Sill, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and Naval Base Ventura County in California. The agreement commits those facilities to be used through Jan. 31, 2015.
The announcement has fueled concerns that what was initially described as a short-term measure is becoming an open-ended commitment.
“Military bases were not designed to be refugee camps,” Bridenstine said. “We need to get these facilities back so that we can have the troops do the training they need to do.”