Massachusetts Governor Seeks Shelter for Emigrating Children

As a result of an urgent request from the Obama administration, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is searching for a way for the state to host children illegally immigrating to the US.

While the federal government will take care of the costs associated with housing the children, the issue at hand is finding an appropriate location.  It is still unclear how many children will need shelter in the state.

Federal officials have “asked us to focus on larger-capacity places and ones that are able to be secured,” a senior Patrick administration official said. “They’ve also made pretty clear that, given the intense need to address the humanitarian crisis, they’re willing to consider different ideas.”

The officials are currently considering Camp Edwards, part of the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod.  The facility was used in 2005 to house 300 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina, writes Jim O’Sullivan for The Boston Globe.

“While only a few facilities will ultimately be selected, a wide range of facilities are being identified and evaluated to determine if they may feasibly provide temporary shelter space for children,” Federal Health and Human Services spokesman Kenneth J. Wolfe said in an e-mail.

Some are dubious of the plan, and believe the space would be better used to handle the state’s homeless.

“Candidly, I’m kind of skeptical of the situation,” House minority leader Bradley Jones said in a telephone interview. “I think it raises a bunch more questions than the governor has been willing or able to answer at this point: How many? At what cost? How long?”

Others, including the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, are scrambling to find additional aid for the children, including clothing, legal services, and help with psychological or medical needs.

Other states are also looking for a way to help.  Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is looking for a way to house the children in his state without using large facilities, which he refers to as “kennels”, according to CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta.

“We are not a country that should turn children away and send them back to certain death,” O’Malley said last week at a National Governors Association meeting in Nashville.

As a result of the recent influx of children emigrating from Central American countries, Obama proposed a supplemental budget of $3.7 billion to deal with the crisis.  At least 60,000 children are expected to cross the border this year, escaping the crime and drug trafficking in their home countries, searching for better work or hoping to reconnect with parents they have not seen in years.

Obama had previously been criticized for his handling of the situation when he began deporting a large number of the immigrants.

Patrick has stood up for immigrants in the past, believing that instead of turning them away, Massachusetts and other states should help.  He called on citizens to think of the story of the St. Louis, a ship that in 1939, carrying 900 Jewish refugees, was turned away, causing more than a quarter of them to perish in concentration camps.

“There’s a humanitarian reason to try to find a solution, try to find a way to help,” Patrick said Wednesday. “These are children, coming from incredibly dangerous places. And we have to do something sensible and humane while we process them for whatever the next step is.”