Westover proposed as housing site for immigrant children

BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Deval Patrick says that Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee is one of the two sites that the state has proposed for the temporary housing of immigrant children.

Governor Deval Patrick says that the state had received a request from the federal government to set-up shelters for some of the thousands of children that have crossed the border into the United States and are waiting for deportation proceedings. He said that the federal government is looking for facilities that can house up to 1,000 children. Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne is the other site that the state is proposing.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would have to examine the facilities prior to the federal government giving their approval. The governor pointed out that the proposed sites would be paid for through federal funds, and not through state money. The average stay for a child in a temporary housing facility is about 35 days, the state says, though Patrick stated that the government are looking for places that could house children for up to four months.

“The facility would be secured, it would have space for children to sleep, eat, play, and go to school. The average stay for children sheltered there would be 35 days based on experience elsewhere, during which they would be processed as described,” Patrick said.

The governor made the announcement Friday morning, surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths during a news conference in Boston. He said that America is at its best when it helps those who are in need, and at its worst when it rejects them.

“These are children alone, in a foreign land,” the governor said, adding that private charity may be needed to provide toys or other supplies for the youngsters.

Not everyone thinks that Massachusetts should be taking in these children, however. 22News spoke with some area residents who feel that the state should not be taking this on.

“It’s a very poor idea,” Craig Boyer of Chester said. “We’ve got enough problems in Massachusetts with our own people. I think we should take care of our own people first.”

An estimated 50,000 unaccompanied children have illegally crossed the border into the United States in recent months. Most of those children come from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, where they are trying to escape poverty and gang violence. Thousands have been detained, and the question of where to house these young people has been an extremely contentious issue. Buses transporting immigrant children to detention facilities have been met with protesters, with confrontations sometimes arising between the protesters and immigrant advocate counter-demonstrators.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently rejected an idea to house immigrants at a largely vacant state facility in Southbury, saying that the facility would not be suitable. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also decided against housing immigrants in his state. Both men are Democrats.

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