JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD —House Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, spent time Wednesday talking to many local leaders trying to calm their concern as thousands of immigrant children potentially head to the Pacific Northwest, many to JBLM.
Heck said he took time to talk to the Mayor of Tacoma Marilyn Strickland and others confirming that if hundreds of immigrant children who were caught crossing the border are shipped to housing at JBLM, local law enforcement and municipalities would not be responsible for their care.
“Health and Human Services assured local officials and me that if JBLM is chosen, government services on the municipal level will not be responsible for providing resources and Health and Human Services will take care of the children at this site temporarily while each case is evaluated,” Heck said.
The federal government is considering a plan to house undocumented kids up to the age of 18 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. But there is a lot of that concern coming from the community just outside the JBLM gates.
“We have plenty of kids around here who need help, that’s the way I look at it,” said a resident of Lakewood.
Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calling the plan, “No more than a dumping of a population with very real needs. Among our concerns are community health, schools, social services and law enforcement impact on our city, as well as the ability of JBLM to focus on its primary mission.”
Anderson is also worried about the possible spread of communicable diseases if the children are brought to JBLM.
Heck reassured local leaders the idea is not yet final.
“We still do not know if refugee children will be placed at JBLM, but we are encouraged that HHS will continue to consult local officials as well as my office about any plans moving forward,” Heck said.
Heck has previously stated that while he understands many are concerned with housing immigrant children in his district, he believes the “humanitarian crisis” is first and foremost.
“Whether at JBLM or other temporary locations, we can’t ignore the ongoing influx of children fleeing conflict in their home countries,” Heck said. “I am supportive of proposals to provide emergency supplemental funding to allow HHS and FEMA the ability to operate at a sustainable level to deal with this crisis.”