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Immigration detention camp nixed at Concord Superfund site

“There will be no relocation camps established in Concord or anywhere in California”

An aerial photo of the Concord Navy base, with gray concrete structures dotting a plain of yellow grass.
An aerial photo of the Concord Navy base.
Photo by Daniel Schwen

According to Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston, reported plans for a “temporary and austere” camp detaining tens of thousands of immigrants at a shuttered Navy base in Concord are off.

The East Bay Times reports that Livingston explained via email to members of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors the plan was off, saying: “I was recently advised by California Office of Emergency Services [...] that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said there will be no relocation camps established in Concord or anywhere in California, FYI at this time.”

The Concord City Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss immigration detention camp rumors, and a reading of the sheriff’s email during public comment brought applause.

On Monday, Concord Mayor Richard Spencer sent a letter to the Secretary of the Navy protesting the possibility of using the Concord Naval Weapons Station for detention, reading in part:

[...] Significant acreage within the CNWS is still undergoing assessment and cleanup of Navy contamination and is not suitable for transfer nor for human occupation. The city and the Navy have been working over the last 12 years through the BRAC [base realignment and closure] process and we are within months of transferring property to the city.

[...] The CNWS currently has no useful infrastructure to provide water, sewer, or electricity. These concerns make the CNWS unsuitable for consideration.

[Correction: Edi E. Birsan is the Mayor of Concord. Richard Spencer is the Secretary of the Navy.]

Spencer’s reference to “cleanup of Navy Contamination” refers to the decade-plus Superfund effort to rid the Concord facility of toxic materials such as lead, arsenic, and mercury leftover from its decades as a munitions facility. The Navy still classifies conditions on the base as potentially hazardous.

TIME magazine originally reported the possibility of immigration camps at Navy facilities in Concord and other communities, citing an internal draft memo.

It’s not clear how seriously the Navy or other federal agencies considered the proposal, but TIME reports that the federal government estimated the Concord site’s potential capacity at some 47,000 detainees.