Calling it a “humanitarian crisis,” Gov. Deval Patrick is exploring the possibility to house hundreds of Central American children for four months in a secure location in Massachusetts.
The governor likened the situation to when Jewish children were turned away from the U.S. and ultimately died in Nazi concentration camps.
Patrick said the temporary facility would be secure “without being a jail.” The US Department of Health and Human Services would administer the facility and allow a place for the children to live until their immigration processing hearings, reported The Boston Globe.
One location being eyed is Camp Edwards, the 22,000-acre Cape Cod base that temporarily housed Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005.
The Globe reported that all three Democratic gubernatorial candidates and leading Republican candidate Charlie Baker support Patrick’s decision to house the children temporarily.
Not all state officials are as supportive of the idea. House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones (R-North Reading) said the state needs to address the “full ramifications that the lack of responsible federal action will mean for taxpayers, public safety, public health, and any other state resources.”
Jones is convening a summit about the issue on July 24. He will meet with Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson and Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. A US Immigration and Customers Enforcement official has also been invited to attend the roundtable discussion.
Kennedy has recently spoken out about how illegal immigrant children have stressed Lynn’s services.
“We have been aware of the unaccompanied children issue for quite a while, and we were able to absorb a lot of these children early on," Kennedy told Fox25. "But now it's gotten to the point where the school system is overwhelmed, our health department is overwhelmed, the city's budget is being sustainably altered in order of accommodate all of these admissions in the school department."
Another issue raised has been the health of the children. There is concern that the children could be transferred to other parts of the country and could spread infectious disease like the flu, reported the Boston Herald.
A spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families told the Boston Herald that the children are screened and given a “well-child exam,” as well as getting required childhood vaccinations, before being transported to another area.