State House News Service and major media broke the announcement from the Patrick Administration that the Massachusetts military/reserve (Otis and Westover) bases will not be needed at this time to assist the refugee children that have fled from regions in Central America. Interestingly, I received the SHNS article via a Mass Dept. Public Health listserve that has to my imperfect memory never disseminated a news release in that fashion. Curious what that means……I digress.
The City of Chicopee was taken by surprise with the announcement over two weeks ago that the Patrick and Obama Administrations were discussing the use of Westover Air Reserve Base to house up to 1,000 children. Mayor Richard Kos is a sensible and reasonable man who serves his community as a true public servant. His long years of service to the community are marked by steady leadership and an absence of political self-aggrandizement. Here is a link (unable to embed it……sorry) to his response after being informed by the reversal of what was rolled out as a decision to house these needy children to a more tempered proposal and possible option: http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/08/westover_in_chicopee_will_not.html#incart_m-rpt-1
There was strong opposition to the proposals in the region where the egregious relocation of homeless individuals and families from the Boston area to the cities and towns of Chicopee, West Springfield, Springfield and other communities without sufficient mitigation and financial resources to manage the people and the burden upon the municipalities is an open and festering wound. I was pleased to hear a young person who identifies himself as a Republican (because he is a western/central MA hunter, fisherman/sportsman) state that we should definitely help the kids.
FEDS WON’T NEED MASS. BASES TO SHELTER MIGRANT CHILDREN
By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, AUG. 5, 2014…. Non-resident children who are being detained along the border after crossing into the United States from Central America will not be coming to Massachusetts as a temporary home.
After all the emotional pleas from Gov. Deval Patrick for compassion from his state and rallies from political opponents who were both distrustful of the federal government and opposed to seeing the state take the risk of bringing an influx of illegal immigrants to Massachusetts, the Obama administration notified state officials Tuesday of its decision to discontinue the use of military bases as temporary shelters for unaccompanied minors detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I have been deeply moved by the outpouring of support we have seen from across the Commonwealth, as over 1,600 of our neighbors reached out to express their support for children who are alone and thousands of miles from home. Once again the people of Massachusetts have displayed great generosity and compassion. It appears that there is not a need for Massachusetts to serve these children at this time, but I am proud of our willingness to do so,” Patrick said in a statement.
Patrick, responding to a request from the federal government, offered on July 18 to shelter up to 1,000 kids for four months on a Bay State military base while the federal government figured out how to handle the immigration statuses of tens of thousands of minors who crossed the southern border from counties like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Though the administration said the federal government would pay for and operate the shelter, local officials in Bourne, Chicopee and elsewhere worried about the long-term impact of bringing the children to Massachusetts and some questioned whether they would eventually be released into the community, putting a burden on schools and other public services.
Patrick made appearances on national television explaining his decision and harkened back to a moment in history that he described as a when the United States turned its back on Jewish children arriving by boat to escape Nazi Germany, only to be returned.
The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to discontinue the use of military bases in states like Oklahoma, Texas and California as temporary shelters to deal with overflow was first reported Monday evening by POLITICO.
The Department of Health and Human Services notified the Patrick administration on Tuesday that beginning in July the number of unaccompanied children apprehended and in custody has fallen, while the number of children released to “appropriate sponsors” as their immigration cases proceed through the courts has increased. HHS has also expanded capacity to care for these children in standard shelters, which are less costly than temporary shelters.
While federal officials say the immigration situation remains fluid, HHS is no longer seeking new temporary shelters, though they said the three current temporary shelters could be reopened for a limited time if there is another influx of children.
“The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border is still too high and thousands of children are still in HHS custody. We will continue to monitor the situation closely in order to make the best decisions about the resources available to take care of the children,” wrote Emily Barson, principal deputy director in the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Jesse Mermell, a spokeswoman for Patrick, said that should a future need for temporary shelter space arise, “The Patrick Administration stands ready to continue conversations with the federal government about how the Commonwealth may assist these children.”
The Patrick administration said it planned to reach out to the people who have contacted the governor’s office looking for opportunities to volunteer and provide them with contact information about organizations that help immigrant children.
Immigrants, faith organizations, civil rights groups, human rights advocates, labor officials and elected politicians recently announced plans to march from Copley Square to the State House on Thursday for a rally to support the governor’s offer to temporarily house some children at Joint Base Cape Cod or Westover Air Base in Chicopee.