Governor Deval Patrick’s defense of the state’s plan to temporarily provide shelter for hundreds of unaccompanied children who entered the United States illegally is being met with varying responses from some leaders around Massachusetts.
In particular, though, officials from Western Mass., where Gov. Patrick named Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee as a potential site, seemed to react the most vehemently. The other option is to house the children, ages 3 to 17, at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne, Gov. Patrick said.
Chicopee’s Mayor Richard Kos led the offensive against Patrick’s decision with a press conference shortly after the two sites were announced, saying “it makes no sense” in part because “security issues and maintaining normal operations” could be compromised at Westover Air Reserve Base.
The city’s City Council president, George R. Moreau, was a bit more ominous in his assessment, reported The Boston Globe.
“There is nothing to say that once these kids are housed there, they can’t leave there and come into the cities and towns,” Moreau said. “They’re not going to be held there by barbed wire.”
Gov. Patrick had previously said that wherever the children are placed “would be secure ‘without being a jail.’”
Other area officials echoed the sentiments of the Chicopee politicians.
Domenec Sarno, the Mayor of nearby Springfield, said bringing the children to Westover will put a “burden” on his city, reported WGGB in Springfield.
“We are struggling to take care of our own children and families here in Springfield. Many of whom live near and/or under the poverty level.”
“If we cannot properly provide services for these illegal migrants, then what have we accomplished, except once again, we are concentrating poverty on top of poverty in our urban centers,” Sarno adds.
A State Senate candidate from Cape Cod reacted by reportedly planning a protest on Saturday in Western Mass. to oppose any undocumented children being housed at either location.
Ron Beaty, a Republican from West Barnstable, called Gov. Patrick’s plan “ill-advised, fiscally irresponsible and possibly unconstitutional,” and threatened more protests if either of the sites are ultimately chosen.
Both of Massachusetts’ US Senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, said it was a humanitarian issue and offered their support to Gov. Patrick, reported MassLive.
Sen. Warren said “we need to do everything we can to make sure [the children] are not harmed or in danger,” while Sen. Markey alluded to the temporary nature of Gov. Patrick’s plan: “We have to take humane, reasonable steps to help and protect [the children] while we process them for the next step.”
Steven M. Lamarche, Superintendent of Bourne Public Schools took a cautiously optimistic approach to the situation, saying in a statement that “if Joint Base Cape Cod is selected I am confident that we will do what we can to support these children.”
Since last fall, more than 50,000 such children have been detained and federal officials have asked certain states to help house them.
Camp Edwards is part of an expansive military reservation on Cape Cod that took in evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.