Joint Base Lewis-McChord will not house hundreds of children from Mexico and Central America who have crossed the Mexican border unaccompanied into the United States, said U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, Tuesday in a written statement.
Heck, whose district includes cities surrounding the base, said the Department of Health and Human Services is no longer seeking temporary shelters at this time and trusts the department made the right decision about what facilities were best for the children.
“This situation will not simply go away because the children are not staying in our district,” Heck said. “As we continue to experience this humanitarian crisis, I support providing emergency funding to provide adequate assistance to care for the children, as well as resources for proper immigration proceedings.”
DHHS announced in June it was interested in using the base as a temporary home for about 600 children, part of the surge of unaccompanied, undocumented minors crossing into the United States.
Questions and concerns spread in the communities around JBLM, which led to Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson writing a letter to Heck that DHHS had not provided information or answered questions about how housing immigrant children at the base would affect surrounding communities.
Representatives from DHHS reassured local officials the children would not mingle with the communities at the base or surrounding areas.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors arrived at the border between October and the end of June, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Most — from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Ecuador — are escaping violence, abuse and persecution in their home countries.
DHHS already has placed minors at three military bases: Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio; Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme, Calif.; and Fort Sill in Lawton, Okla.