Officials react to possible immigration detention camp at Concord Naval Weapons Station

Officials in Concord as well as U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier have reacted to a report that the federal government may be eying the Concord Naval Weapons Station as a site to house up to 45,000 undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, whose District 11 includes Concord and part of Martinez, has joined other San Francisco Bay Area members of Congress in asking U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer to release the Navy’s proposal for housing the people on land owned by the Department of Defense.

Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-05,) whose district also contains part of Martinez, as well as Ami Bera (CA-07), Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Doris O. Matsui (CA-06), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Eric Swalwell (CA-15) signed the letter.

“We are deeply troubled by the recent news stories suggesting that the United States Navy has put together a proposal to create tent camps for undocumented immigrants on Department of Defense-owned land, including at Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, California,” the letter said.

“We are understandably concerned that such a drastic proposal is being considered without community input or notification. We call on you as Members of Congress to provide us with the report and we would appreciate the courtesy of a response to this request by June 28, 2018.”

The concern arose after Time Magazine said it had a copy of an internal Navy memorandum that listed the Naval Weapons Station as one of several proposed sites for detention camps.

DeSaulnier has made his own concerns clear, telling Spencer that “the proposed site for this tent city is hugely problematic and is currently both unsafe and inhabitable.

”It is adjacent to an Army ammunition and explosives depot, which has blast zones and other hazards. Portions of the base have been deemed not suitable because of their environmental hazards. There is no current sewer, power, or water infrastructure on the land to allow for any human habitation,” he said. “Forcing anybody to live on this land right now is more than dangerous – it is immoral.”

The city of Concord also has objected to the possible plans, issuing its own statement.

“The Navy has not communicated information to the city about any such plans, although we have reached out to them upon hearing these reports,” the statement said. “While the City of Concord is currently negotiating to acquire and eventually develop the Naval Weapons Station, we do not have jurisdiction or control over that federally-owned property.”

Contra Costa Health Services also responded after hearing Friday of the proposal to use the weapons station to house 47,000 undocumented people who entered the country.

In her statement, Director Anna M. Roth said, “As principle guardian of public health in Contra Costa County, charged with protecting all people who live here, Contra Costa Health Services condemns this dangerous, immoral proposal –not just the location of this facility, but its existence.

“Whether the despicable practice of caging young children separately from their parents continues or family members are imprisoned together, there is no place in Contra Costa or any civilized society for these types of facilities.”

She said family separation can cause “irrevocable harm…a trauma that leads higher incidence of addiction, mental illness and chronic disease among survivors. The consequences to the health of prisoners, particularly children, are not hard to predict.”

Health impacts could extend to Contra Costa County residents, she said.

“Many Contra Costa residents live in fear, documented and otherwise. Patients miss appointments because they’re afraid ICE will be waiting for them in the doctor’s office,” she said.

“This climate of fear adversely affects our community’s health, and would only worsen with this detention facility pitched in the center of our county,” she said.

Calling for an end to imprisoning undocumented people who have entered the country, Roth said, “For the health of all Contra Costans we demand that a detention camp not be located in our county.”

In September 2017, Concord officially confirmed its commitment to being “a welcoming, inclusive, tolerant and supportive community for all,” the statement said. “We do not feel that a detention center within city limits represents those values.”

The statement confirmed it was working with DeSaulnier, who had an online live town hall on the topic Tuesday. Through him, Concord is working with U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12), the House’s Minority Leader, to obtain more information about the matter.

Two camps may be under consideration for 25,000 people each near Mobile and Orange Beach, Ala., as well as putting 47,000 people near Camp Pendleton, the Marines’ training site in Southern California, TIME Magazine said, citing the memo. In addition, the memo said an unspecified number could be housed at the Marine Corps Air Station near Yuma, Ariz., the magazine said.

Tents could be used to house the people for six months to a year, the magazine said.

The former weapons station, built as an annex to Mare Island Naval Shipyard, has been considered as a site since at least 2015 for up to thousands of high-density residents near Port Chicago Highway and the North Concord/Martinez BART station and more than 6 million square feet of commercial space. At the time the Navy had been expecting to transfer 1,400 acres to Concord and 2,500 acres to the East Bay Regional Park District.

It was listed as a Superfund cleanup site Dec. 16, 1994, with 32 areas identified as having heavy metals, semi-volatile organic compounds and organochloride, and environmental remediation was started, including soil removal and capping. It has been used as a the scene for several tests in episodes of the television show “Mythbusters” and as testing site for driverless vehicles.

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