FORT SILL, Okla. -- Federal officials allowed members of the media to tour the temporary shelter at Fort Sill being used to house more than 1,000, mostly teenage, immigrants from Central America.
Participants in the tour Thursday afternoon at the Army post in southwest Oklahoma were heavily restricted and prohibited from taking pictures, asking questions or interacting with staff or children at the shelter.
It was the first time members of the media were allowed inside the facility at Fort Sill since it began receiving children last month who had been caught at the US-Mexico border trying to enter the country illegally.
Many of the youth were found to be happy and smiling Thursday. Most of them decorated their dormitories with flags of their homelands. The kids staying at Fort Sill range from ages 12 to 17 and on average they will stay about 15 days.
US Department of Health and Human Services officials said there currently are 1,069 minors at the converted Army barracks on the post.
"The one thing that stood out to me was bible verses. A lot of Jesus and God. And quite a few American flags, but also references to soccer," said Stephanie Ramos, media witness.
Government officials said the children will be placed with appropriately vetted families to help them go through their immigration hearings.