JBLM could house 600 immigrant children and families

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash -- The fate of 600 lives could be decided inside empty buildings constructed in World War II.

The federal government is currently debating using Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a temporary housing facility for dozens and dozens of immigrant children and some members of their families.

"I think that the US is supposed to be open to refugees," said Maru Mora-Villalpando, a Latino advocate.

Mora-Villalpando says recent criticism of relocations elsewhere in the country has been deplorable.

"And they happen to be brown, then there's this rage against them and I think it's very racially based," she said.

Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson isn't entirely opposed to the temporary housing, but he does want answers. Citing a "broken system," Anderson worries about unfunded mandates of education, healthcare and community if many of the children "age out" of the program at 18.

"Who's going to pay for these things? How long are they going to pay and where's the burden going to fall?" Anderson asked.

The federal government treats this group of immigrants different than others.

Many of the children are fleeing Central American drug violence that Mora-Villalpando says is a legacy of pain our country helped fuel and then ignored.

"All of us have a say in what's happening in Central America because we allowed for that to happen," Mora-Villalpando said.

Local officials will participate in a conference call with members of the Health and Human Services department on Wednesday and hope to get more specifics about plans at JBLM.