Leaked Navy memo drives community outrage over plans of detention center

Concord Navy Base possible site to detain undocumented immigrants

Protesters listen to a speaker during the Concord City Hall on June 26 in Concord, California. Protesters gathered after a leaked memo detailed plans to build an undocumented immigration detention center in the Concord Naval Base.

By Efrain Valdez, Social Media Editor

CONCORD- Following Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment Phyllis L. Bayer’s leaked memo to a Navy secretary, the Concord City Council said there will be no immigration detention facility established at the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.

At a special meeting held Wednesday, Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said in the email, “I was recently advised by the California Office of Emergency Services high ranking officials that the DHS said there will be no relocation camps established in Concord or anywhere in California, at this time.”

Prior to Wednesday’s special meeting, reports of the possible detention facilities ignited outrage as about 250 Contra Costa County residents and local activist protested the Navy’s plan at the monthly scheduled town hall meeting on Tuesday.

During the Tuesday town hall meeting, Mayor Eli Birsan said, “The Navy has not communicated information to the City about any such plans, although we have reached out to them upon hearing these reports.”

Bayer’s memo leaked by Time Magazine states the recipient of the draft was Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. It urged him to approve the project to construct an undocumented immigrant detention center on the 12-acre naval weapon station in Concord.

The suggested detention center could hold up to 47,000.

Following Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, the increase of undocumented immigrants being charged for criminal offenses has increased and children are being separated from parents who are then being sent to jail for crossing the southern border according to Time Magazine.

The Navy’s outline document proposes the construction begin with allocating $233 million to build and maintain a detention center for 25,000 undocumented immigrant for the purpose of holding them for half a year.

During the city council meeting some of the 250 protesters at the civic center in Concord, most of them local community members, voiced their concerns to city council members during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“It is not possible for you to allow the construction of a detention center for immigrants,” Dolores Ramos vice president of Central Counsel Group said.

“This action would affect our immigrant community immensely and will affect our young children even more. With this news our community feels fearful and surrounded by injustice,” Ramos said.

On Tuesday, Concord Mayor Edi Birsan said since the items on the agenda for the council meeting were previously established, they (council members) could not discuss anything that isn’t on the agenda per California regulations.

“I wish I had more information to tell you, but I don’t. Under the restrictions of the current California laws we are not allowed as a city council to engage in the discussion of this item because it is not on the agenda,” Birsan said to the packed civic center on Tuesday.

Birsan continued by saying that the city council would allow an extended public comment section after completing the meeting’s agenda.

Residents took to the podium and spoke to the city council before and after, although many of the protesters were not able to get into the meeting because of limited space.

One of them being, Oakland resident and indigenous group dancer Alex Garcia.

“Those kids out there that are being separated, most are indigenous,” Garcia said.

“You can look at the Indian boarding schools or the Ohlone Native-American people and see nobody was there for them because it was official U.S. government policy to displace them. The reason for the cruel policies was to take over California for gold,” Garcia said.

The “zero-tolerance” policy highlights America’s brutal history of committing injustice crimes to minority communities Garcia said.

“This has always been an American practice,” he said. “What happened to the Jews with Hitler is that he learned his tactics from the American’s treatment of Native Americans. On the one hand I am happy that European-Americans think that this is a new thing because they will hopefully come to the realization that they have always been like that.”

The news release by Concord officials on June 22 clarified that even though the city of Concord is working to acquire the naval weapons base they still have no jurisdiction or control over what happens on the land.

Fearing that racial based policies from American history might repeat themselves, residents and community leaders are still skeptical about the DHS’ announcement and are urging city leaders to get a response from the U.S. Navy.

During the Tuesday city hall meeting, Concord resident Dan Reynolds said, “I thank you for your letter (news release) but I want to urge you and our city leaders to condemn this internment camp and all of these camps because they are immoral, despicable, unamerican and evil.” Reynolds said the city must send a strong message of to its people that they too, like the public, are against the detention centers being built here and anywhere else in America.