The federal government is looking at a now-closed Army Reserve center in the Westminster area as a shelter for Central American immigrants, mostly children, who have been pouring across the southwestern US border.
Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz says he received an e-mail Thursday night informing of that possibility. He says oficials plan to tour the site to see if it can be used as a temporary shelter. The building has been vacant for at least two decades.
Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild says he and other residents learned about this through the media. He says the federal government has "blindsided" the county. "There is a concept, a process of inter-government coordination. And the fact we found about this through the media and through citizen phone calls who were extremely angry when they read about this in the media, I think demonstrates the process itself is broken," says Commissioner Rothschild.
Since October, 2013, some 57,000 people have crossed the border into the US. They have been coming mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras fleeing violence and extortion in their home countries, according to the US Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Jeh Johnson estimates that the Department will apprehended about 90,000 children by the end of fiscal year 2014 in September.
Meanwhile, Secretary Johnson told Congress that Homeland Security will run out of money to deal with these children crossing the border if Representatives and Senators don't approve the President's request for $3.7-billion in emergency funds.
Commissioner Rothschild says he and his colleagues held an open meeting on Friday to discuss the issue. He says he's against using Carroll County as an importation center. "Importing the problem into the United States, and possibly, in the end, leaving local communities with the responsibility in the end of dealing with this is inappropriate. And as far as I'm concerned as a Commissioner, it's constitutes a federal commandeering of the resources of a local community, and the federal government is not allowed to do that," he says. Rothschild calls that "overreaching" on the part of the federal government.
Government officials had considered sites in Prince George's County and Baltimore city as locations for shelters, but that was dropped following opposition from Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin.
Rothschild says he and his fellow Commissioners will be sending a loud message to the federal government that they don't want this type of facility in their community. "Until at such point as they engage us in a responsible manner, the answer isn't no. It's hell no," he says.
As far as he knows, Rothschild says no final decision has been made regarding the use of this now-closed Army Reserve Center on Malcolm Drive in the Westminster area as a shelter.