Religious leaders support housing children at Westover

Have expressed solidarity with immigrant children

Archbishop Timothy Paul of the Council of Churches of Greater Springfield

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Western Massachusetts religious leaders are expressing their support for a proposal to temporarily house up to 1,000 immigrant children at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.

Governor Deval Patrick announced the plan during a news conference in Boston on Friday. The governor says that he is responding to a request from the federal government to find places suitable to house the children for up to four months. Patrick was surrounded by Boston-area faith leaders when he made his announcement, and some local religious leaders told 22News that they too back the plan.

“The federal government has their obligations either process these children, deport them or reunite them with families, but for us the church we don’t turn away those in need especially children,” said Archbishop Timothy Paul, President of the Council of Churches of Greater Springfield.

“These kids have gone through a very traumatic experience. We the people of faith need to make them feel that this country that welcomes you.”

Mark Dupont, spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, said that the Catholic Charity Agency is ready to provide case workers to assist these young people. He says that the Diocese stand in solidarity with the other religious communities around the state.

“It is important, and in fairness to border communities, that all states lend a hand by sharing in this reponse,” Dupont wrote. “We should resist the urge to treat them as pawns in a larger political debate, rather as victims themselves who are trying to escape unimaginable poverty so as to seek a better life.”

During Monday’s news conference, Patrick said that the length of stay for these immigrant children typically lasts about 35 days.

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