WESTMINSTER, Md. — The federal government is exploring the possibility of housing immigrant children in a vacant Army Reserve building in Westminster, and some local leaders aren’t pleased with the idea.
Westminster Mayor Kevin Utz said he was first informed about the prospect of using the building in an email Thursday night. Officials plan to tour the site, which has been vacant for more than 20 years, to determine its suitability for use as a temporary shelter.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S. border from Central America since October, fleeing violence and extortion in their home countries. The Obama administration has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to cope with the crisis.
Although the building is not in his district, Republican Rep. Andy Harris, who represents other parts of Carroll County, said he would try to block it from being used to house refugees.
“We have no idea what diseases these children are coming from Central America with. They’re putting it inside the middle of a community. I just don’t think it’s safe until we answer all those questions,” Harris said.
Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild said he would also oppose using the building for that purpose.
The federal government has considered three other sites in Maryland for possible shelters, but all three have been scrapped.
Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, whose district includes the site, was noncommittal about the prospects of using it as a shelter but said Congress should give the president the funds he has requested.
“We must ensure the safe treatment of these young children while also making it clear that the United States does not have an open border. The congressman will consider proposed actions to determine whether they are consistent with those two objectives,” his spokeswoman, Bridgett Frey, said in a statement. “Mr. Van Hollen also believes we are witnessing the consequences of failing to act on comprehensive immigration reform.”
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