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.

Sign up for breaking news, alerts and updates with Cal Coast News Top Stories.


Loading...
Niles Q

I feel sorry for anyone that has to endure a single summer at Camp Roberts, let alone 4 years! The heat up there can be blistering (and damned cold in winter too), so yeah, if they don’t truck in bottled water, the groundwater basin will take a big hit.

Maybe we should look at this as an economic booster, I mean the Feds will need to contract for everything, from food to clothing, blankets, water, teachers, interpreters, bureaucrats, the list is endless, and local people should see how they can cash in, um… I mean help with this disaster. {;0)

20,000 children will need a lot of taking care of. I foresee a cottage industry being born…

(Just kidding)


horse_soldier

Where are all those people who were screaming during the last administration about families being together?


Everybody_Lies

So as I left work at Camp Roberts yesterday, I noticed that about 5-10 “protestors_ had gathered across the freeway from the main gate and were shouting “CLOSE CAMP ROBERTS.” Why??? Because of the looming arrival of the immigrant children? O.K. people, check it out: Camp Roberts is a California State National Guard base. Yes, we train weekend warriors in case they are needed for war, but we also train them to be ready for natural disasters or other great domestic needs. Those soldiers at the base you want to close may be pulling your butt from a crumbled building after the next big earthquake. Camp Roberts is owned by the Federal Government and leased by the State of California. Despite if Camp Roberts is closed or not, the Kamala Harris administration will still place 20k immigrant children there if she wants to. It’s Federal land, they could put 50,000 children in Yosemite if they wanted to. Closing Camp Roberts will not fix anything, your anger is misplaced. Maybe you should contact that worthless Nancy Pelosi puppet of a Congressman down in Santa Barbara, or protest in front of his office for results.


Chill

Why not use the El Paso de Robles Correctional Facility or the Estrella Correctional Facility? It’s ready to go?? (It’s near the Paso airport)


Ben Daho

Yes! Imagine being a young child. You look out into the world and there is no hope. You live in a cage with no one you know. suddenly, a country recognizes you as a human being,. NOT only while you’re in a womb, but someone that Jesus continually told us to love. We can fight this and look back years later like America has constantly done and held our heads in shame, or, we can embrace it and say “THIS is the America I heard about, but have never seen” and welcome these children with the absolute basic needs. We’re not in the Sudan, Libya, Myanmar, or Tijuana. we are a nation of immigrants. I’m sorry that you hadn’t noticed. Be Best.


derasmus

I agree, but this should be done orderly and legally. Biden (I mean Harris) administration is making things worse just because they are so anti Trump.


slo-to-load

Anti-trump? Who cares, he’s a has-been. No longer around and no longer relevant. The sooner Republicans forget about him and remember actual conservative policies that will truly make this country great again, the better.


isoslo

Ben, I agree, however part of what makes America great is our system of laws. We are able to accept a certain number of immigrants each year, but they must follow the legal avenue, otherwise we become just like the countries people are fleeing.


Jorge Estrada

It would be less expensive to build housing units in their own country or are we just importing these healthy, well feed liabilities, a Segway into Communism?


shelworth

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


kevin rise

Lol, way too late, we’ve had the highest case count from day 1 due to very obvious reasons, specifically political.


commonsenseguy

Sorry, but the liberal and blm mecca city of SLO has the most cases as of 5-7-21 with 4,298 compared to 4,161 in Paso Robles. So I guess you are correct due to the obvious leftist activity by Harmon, Tiana and rest of the political left insurgents.