Camp Roberts to house up to 20,000 migrant children during drought

May 4, 2021

By KAREN VELIE

Amid drought conditions and concerns of water shortages, the Department of Health and Human Services has received permission to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children at Camp Roberts in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties.

Initially, 1,500 children were to be housed in barracks. Now, there are plans for a maximum of 20,000 children to be sheltered in either military-style tents or trailers for up to four years, according to several sources who have asked to remain anonymous. Several thousand caregivers and other support workers would add to the total number housed at the base.

The Camp Roberts Joint Land Use Study, published in 2013, points to problems related to the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin that could arise from an increase in demand for water from the basin. Camp Roberts pumps ground water from the basin to support camp operations and provide drinking water.

For more than a decade, declining water levels in the basin have caused residential and small agricultural wells to go dry. The civilian population and agriculture uses have dramatically increased leading to less water availability, according to the study.

“Groundwater supply planning must be coordinated to ensure viable water resources,” according to the study. “If the demand for groundwater increases, Camp Roberts could contribute to and exacerbate groundwater supply concerns.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in late April that 97.5% of California was under drought conditions. San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties are in moderate to severe drought.

A 2020 University of Cal Poly study describes a worst case scenario if farmers and residents are forced to reduce their water usage by 23 percent. Wineries could lose more than $215 million annually, with an estimated 967 jobs lost.

The study, “The Economic Impact on the Local Economy of Irrigated Agriculture in the Paso Robles Area and Potential Impacts of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,” was conducted by Lynn Hamilton, Ph.D. and Michael McCollough, Ph.D. of Cal Poly.

Camp Roberts straddles San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties. Current plans are to house the children on the Monterey County side of the base, where minority soldiers were segregated in the 40s. Because the infrastructure is dilapidated, federal employees are currently assessing infrastructure, such as plumbing for water and sewer, sources said.

For decades, the California Military Department has retained jurisdiction over the federally owned base. However, sources contend the federal goverment has recently taken control of portions of the base.

Government officials from multiple agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, have refused to discuss detailed plans for Camp Roberts.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma, Chief of Media Relations, said the California National Guard “retains operations at Camp Roberts,” but directed questions regarding portions of the base being under federal control to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also refused to answer questions.

Camp Roberts is a National Guard post that provides training for National Guard, Army Reserve and law enforcement agencies. It spans 43,000 acres with approximately 33,000 acres used for training.

Some 22,195 children are in the Department of Health and Human Services custody and more than 683 in Customs and Border Patrol custody, not including children from Mexico who are expected to be repatriated, according to Homeland Security.

On May 3, border patrol officers apprehended 426 unaccompanied migrant children and placed them in Customs and Border Patrol custody. Over the past 30 days, officers have picked up an average of 429 children a day.

Camp Roberts is the third military base selected to house unaccompanied children. The Pentagon previously approved Fort Bliss and Joint Base, both in Texas, as other sites to house immigrant children.

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shelworth

Paso Robles massive Covid outbreak in 3…2…1…


NorthCountyLady

Is this going to create any Federal jobs for the local populace? Or are all the security, medical, mental health personnel, food workers, sanitation workers, etc. going to be transferred here? From where? If so, where will they live? Does this area even have enough available workers to be recruited to fill all these staffing positions? What about the contractors and construction workers needed to make these buildings habitable for children or put up tents? Will they be using local companies or the Army Corp of Engineers? Will this entire project be good or bad for our local economy? What will the staff to child ratio be? What will happen to children who turn 18? Will they be able to just leave? What about minors who escape? Who will be responsible for finding them? Will they be in escape proof settings? Cages? Barbed wire? Locked dorms? Is this a humane way to house children? Will they be provided education? Taught English? By who? Considering CMC houses 3000 inmates and ASH houses 1100 patients, and these are the two largest employers in SLO County, does anyone have any idea how many employees it will take to run a housing facility for up to 20,000 children? As usual….. so many questions, so little answers.


ViolentFelon

You are dreaming if you think there is any way that 20k children are going to be contained at a military base. And as soon as videos of screaming children pop up on youtube when enforcement agencies “hunt down” escapees, that practice is going to end–if it even starts. English? There is no requirement to learn English in California–clearly. The economy? Why does that matter if your home becomes unrecognizable? When you must learn another language just to perform in the “economy” of your home, it’ is no longer the home you knew–if it’s even your home anymore.