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A FOIA Request Seeks Information on the Government's Plan to House Immigrants at a Superfund Site

The non-profit legal group Earthjustice filed a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday seeking information from the United States Department of Defense on its plans to house detained immigrants at two Texas military bases that have a history with toxic hazards.

The request was filed as the Trump administration works to build detention centers at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo and Fort Bliss in El Paso. The FOIA request claims that "these waste sites have the potential to cause dangerous human exposure to toxic chemicals via air, water and soil to migrants housed in tent encampments and to workers constructing the detention camps."

Earthjustice filed the request alongside such organizations as the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, GreenLatinos, and the National Hispanic Medical Association.

At Goodfellow Air Force Base, tents are set to be built next to a closed but uncapped landfill.

Fort Bliss, which is plagued with hazardous chemicals and radiological contaminants due to past munitions burial and burning operations, is of particular concern to advocates. The base is already listed as a Superfund site, meaning it has been earmarked for clean-up by the Environmental Protection Agency on account of environmental and public-health concerns. According to the FOIA request, the chemicals at Fort Bliss "can cause cancer, neurological damage and injury to major human organs."

"Detaining migrant families with children in hastily constructed tents on military bases is ill-conceived and dangerous," Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans said in a statement. "Families could be exposed to radiation, toxic chemicals, unexploded munitions, polluted drinking water and multiple other health hazards."

Given the FOIA's expedited processing, Earthjustice has requested a response from the government within 10 days.