There were protestors and politicians and bullhorns and buses.
And for a brief while, a small Southern California community became the flashpoint for the national immigration debate when people began to flood into the area to voice their displeasure with a Federal program that placed unaccompanied immigrant children at facilities that could accommodate them – some even going so far as to block the routes so that the vehicles carrying what were believed to be children from Central American countries couldn’t proceed.
Now, after being considered a possible spot for the program, the Sharpe Army Depot – which has been under the control of the Department of the Army since the Defense Logistics Agency surrendered their contract more than a year ago and moved the bulk of their Lathrop operations to Tracy – has been officially taken out of the running.
In response to an inquiry from a resident at a city council meeting last week, City Manager Steve Salvatore gave a brief update on the scenario gained initial traction but stalled when the Department of Defense – and in this case, specifically, the Department of the Army – determined that their current facilities are not equipped to handle the expected traffic.
Originally the Department of Health and Human Services had begun communicating with local officials about the possibility of using some of the base’s unused facilities to give temporary shelter to minors that make to the United States as part of an anti human trafficking effort. It essentially would render it illegal to deport them back to their country of origin without sending them before a federal judge first.
Paul Hernandez, a Vietnam War veteran who says that his family is struggling to come up with the money necessary to pay his daughter’s tuition to UC Irvine, took issue with the possibility when he heard about it in August. Residents, he said, already pay the highest Mello-Roos taxes in San Joaquin County, so to then open up the floodgates and let others that aren’t even residents of the country reap the same benefits is unfair to those who have been footing the bill.
But the city might not have had much of a choice in the matter.
According to City Attorney Salvador Navarrete, the opinion of the city wasn’t sought in the matter and likely wouldn’t have been incorporated into the decision at all.
Plans on utilizing the remaining facilities at the base, however, aren’t completely dead.
There is currently a movement in the California Legislature to convert a portion of the base’s barracks into a military school modeled after the successful ChalleNGe Youth Academies in other parts of the state. Originally proposed by Stockton Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman, the bill has received co-sponsorship from Democratic State Senator Cathleen Galgiani of Stockton and Modesto Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen.