Lathrop army depot considered as temporary home for undocumented kids

Federal officials are considering Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop as a temporary home for undocumented and unaccompanied children crossing into the United States from Central America.

Lathrop City Engineer Glenn Gebhardt confirmed the information on Thursday, but he didn't know much else.

"We know it is being considered. We don't know how soon they may make that decision. We're thinking just a couple of weeks," Gebhardt said. "We're not sure how large the facility might be or exactly to what extent they might be considering moving the children there."

Gebhardt said the city is still trying to understand what role, if any, they might play if the children are placed there. It is Gebhardt's understanding that if Sharpe Army Depot were to be used for temporary housing, the federal government would foot the bill without any city expense.

The confirmation comes on the heels of a big announcement earlier in the week. On Monday, the federal government announced it will no longer house unaccompanied minors at the three military facilities they're currently being sheltered.

"We are able to take this step because we have proactively expanded capacity to care for children in standard shelters, which are significantly less costly facilities," Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Ken Wolfe said in a statement. "At the same time, we have seen a decrease in the number of children crossing the Southwest border."

Federal officials have said the situation remains fluid. Tens of thousands of unaccompanied kids from Central America have crossed the border in the last few years, escaping danger at home.

The crisis has caused angry protests down in southern California, as demonstrators blocked buses from entering a border patrol facility just a month ago.

Some residents in Lathrop sympathized with the children.

"If kids are trying to escape, getting away from violence, I think it's worth a try," Janie Alcala said.

"To the folks that say just send them back, it's very dismissive," Jason Krause added.

While there are still many unanswered questions about whether the depot will be used, some say this controversy underscores the need for more comprehensive immigration reform.

"I have mixed emotions about that. My grandparents came to America and they came legally so I think everybody needs to come legally, but these are children," Lori Green said. "Have a heart. They're children. Give them a chance."


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