4 P.M. UPDATE:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he believes federal officials' review of the Little Rock Air Force Base to determine if it’s suitable to house migrant children is still scheduled for Thursday, even though the president signed an executive order Wednesday to keep families together at the border.
Arkansas is in a position to be “helpful,” Hutchinson said.
“Let me just make it clear. I want to be helpful if we can help carry out the policy of keeping the families together,” the governor said in an afternoon phone call with an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter.
Trump’s executive order ended the administration’s policy of separating children from families after they are detained while crossing the border illegally. Earlier Wednesday, a base spokeswoman confirmed that federal officials will visit the Little Rock Air Force Base on Thursday to determine if it’s suitable to house migrant children who were split from their parents.
Hutchinson said it’s his understanding that the review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is still scheduled. He added that the agency is considering a second location in Arkansas, though he declined to disclose where.
Under the former policy, parents who crossed the border were charged with illegal entry and taken into custody to be prosecuted. Their children were handed over to a division of the Health and Human services department.
Since families will no longer be separated, it creates “a very large logistical challenge, and if we can be helpful in supporting that policy, then we absolutely want to be helpful,” Hutchinson said.
The governor said the last time he was in Washington, D.C., he met with the department’s deputy secretary who indicated they were “continuing to have space needs.”
Hutchinson stressed that Thursday’s review of the Little Rock Air Force Base is preliminary.
Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
Federal officials were planning to visit the Little Rock Air Force Base on Thursday to discern whether the base could temporarily house migrant children who are being separated from their parents at the southern border of the U.S., a spokeswoman said Wednesday morning
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff members were planning to visit the base, located about 17 miles northwest of Little Rock, though a time hadn't been firmed up, Staff Sgt. Regina Edwards said earlier Wednesday.
Edwards said she did not know whether members of the media would be allowed to attend the tour and referred that question to a Human Services spokesman. Edwards added that she did not know what exactly the tour would entail yet.
“This one is absolutely something different,” she said.
The news follows a crackdown by the Trump administration on illegal immigration at the U.S./Mexico border. A new policy of separating parents from their children had been widely criticized and inspired protests before Trump's order on Wednesday.