PANAMA CITY -- The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has decided not to house any undocumented immigrants or refugees at Tyndall Air Force Base.
Tyndall was one of several air force bases considered as potential shelters for unaccompanied children apprehended at the southern U.S. border. Several area officials were opposed to the idea.
"We've been watching this debate for a long time and we were feeling very nervous that this would pull away from the military missions that Tyndall Air Force Base and other air force bases across the country need to be focusing on rather than non-military missions," State Representative Jay Trumbull said.
Trumbull's biggest worry about the project was that, despite it being billed as a shelter project for children, he said there was no guarantee that adults wouldn't be housed on the base as well.
"That just puts an extreme burden, in my opinion, on the base, taking away from their military missions," he said.
Sen. Don Gaetz, R -- Niceville, expressed concern about the potential danger of housing unvetted foreign nationals on an active military base in close proximity to classified information and activities and called it a "stupid" plan.
"I'm relieved that the Obama administration has changed course," Gaetz said. "It was an extraordinarily bad idea."
While he does believe humanitarian aid is important for these children, Gaetz does not believe military installations are the appropriate place to provide that aid.
"The place to do that is as close to the crisis as possible," he said.
So far, HHS officials have not provided any specific reasons for Tyndall's ineligibility, but HHS Administration for Children and Families public affairs director Andrea Heller said the agency sends a team to each potential site to evaluate the amount of space available, how long it will be available and if any modifications are necessary. Tyndall simply "didn't fit our needs at this time," she said.