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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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.


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.


Buchon

“…Considering CMC houses 3000 inmates and ASH houses 1100 patients, and these are the two largest employers in SLO County…”


Nah. SLO County, Cal Poly, PG&E and others employ more.


NorthCountyLady

It is true that San Luis Obispo County employs approximately 2800 people, however, Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) employs apprx. 2100 in one facility at one site. CMC employs approx. 1800 and CalPoly apprx 1700. SLO County jail has 430 employees and the inpatient unit on Johnson are the only facilities that house people 24/7. The latest news says Camp Roberts is expecting to house 5000 children 24/7. If you consider ASH having 2100 employees and 1200 patients, You are looking at at least 7000 and possibly 10,000 employees to ensure these children are fed nutritious food, kept clean, sanitary and healthy with immediate access to health/medical care, and considering they have all been through severe trauma, 24/7 mental health care, plus security to ensure they do not escape or harm each other or themselves. That means 7000 to 10,000 staff will also need to be housed, fed, and have access to entertainment,( they will have days off) medical care, emergency services etc. That is roughly the population of Templeton. I do believe that due to decisions that have already been made at the border, at this point these children should have compassionate care. However, the execution of this project is going to be tremendous and will impact our area greatly. Of course we all have no doubt the Federal Government will execute this in a timely, efficient, organized and cost effective manner like they do everything else. (Tongue in cheek and extreme sarcasm here).