June 11 (UPI) -- Up to 1,4000 unaccompanied migrant children will be temporarily housed at Fort Sill Army base in Oklahoma, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday.
The department's Office of Refugee Resettlement said it was activating the base in Lawton due to a "dramatic spike" in migrants under the age of 18 who have no parents or other legal guardians in the United States.
HHS said it received more than 40,000 referrals of unaccompanied migrant children between October 2018 -- the start of fiscal year 2019 -- and April 30.
HHS used Fort Sill as a temporary emergency influx shelter in 2014, when there was another surge of unaccompanied minors. That year, the government activated emergency shelters at military installations in California and Texas, as well.
The children will be sheltered in hard-sided structures at Fort Sill, while soft-sided structures will be used for support operations.
HHS said it's also considering expanding the Santa Teresa Land Port of Entry facility as potential temporary shelter for unaccompanied minors. If so, the facility would remain unoccupied unless there is an emergency impacting the capacity at another shelter.
Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it apprehended 144,278 people who attempted to cross into the United States illegally in May, including 11,391 who presented themselves at ports of entry and were deemed inadmissible. That was a 45 percent increase over April's apprehensions.