Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama might be one of the next places that illegal immigrant kids may be housed. That possibility does not sit well with many Alabama residents or political leaders in the state.
More than 57,000 illegal immigrant kids, according to Stars and Stripes, have come across the border since last October, and more are coming every day, overwhelming the facilities at the border. The Inquisitr reports that up to 90% of those minors are actually teenagers.
With these unprecedented numbers of immigrants, many of them unaccompanied minors, crossing into the country illegally, housing them has become a huge problem for the federal government, a problem that the administration is all too happy to dump onto the states.
When word came out late Wednesday that the Obama administration wanted to use Maxwell AFB as a possible site to house as many as 2,000 of the immigrants, the news was not met favorably by many in the state.
Late Wednesday afternoon, reports started coming in from the Associated Press that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s chief of staff received a phone call from FEMA confirming that immigrant minors would be housed at Maxwell AFB. Criticism of the plan was immediate and sharp.
On Thursday, according to WSFA, the governor’s office “shifted” their statement, saying that they were notified that Maxwell AFB “is on a list of possible sites to hold the immigrants.” There is uncertainty now as to which department from the federal government notified Governor Bentley’s office, but they are “working to clarify that information.”
Currently, about 2,500 of the young immigrants are being housed between three military bases, reports FOX: Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, and Naval Base Ventura County in California. Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel signed off on a request for an additional 5,000 spots for housing, requested by the Department of Health and Human Services. The agreement extends the time period from the original request of 120 days to extend through January 31, 2015, obviously not a short-term proposal.
The Department of Defense has offered up Maxwell AFB to Health and Human Services, according to defense spokesman, Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson, but he stresses that the facility must still be assessed by HHS to ascertain whether or not the base is suitable for housing children. The Tuscaloosa News reports that the feds are looking for places that can accommodate, not only housing, but feeding, recreation, medical care, and counseling. Crosson said, “Just because we offer them the facility does not mean they are going to use it.”
Alabama Representatives Martha Roby and Mike Rogers believe that this is an ill-conceived plan and have voiced their strong opposition to the possibility of housing the immigrants at Maxwell AFB in a letter sent to Defense Secretary Hagel, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Because Maxwell is an active base, immigrants shipped there would interfere with the work there. “The housing, feeding and caring of immigration detainees would severely compromise the critical mission at Maxwell-Gunter.”
Representative Roby issued this statement:
“Under no circumstances should these children be sent to Maxwell-Gunter or any other military installation for that matter.
“The children must be sent back to their countries. We will do it with the utmost compassion and care, but it has to be done. Allowing them to stay is the least compassionate option because it invites even more children to endure the brutality of this organized trafficking scheme.
“The only way this influx of children at the border ends is when American planes start landing in their countries of origin bringing the children back. We must send a message that this scheme parents and children have been tricked into will not work.”
The phone call to the governor’s office came directly on the heels of a letter sent to President Obama, signed by Governor Bentley and governors from five other states, calling on the President to deal with the illegal immigrant situation. The governors voiced concern that the immigrants would put a strain on already tight resources for schools, social services, and health services, with the states ultimately picking up the tab.
Citizens opposed to the immigrants being housed at Maxwell AFB have been melting the phone lines to the state capital, taking to social media and talk radio, and are already organizing rallies to protest.
There is one lone politician in Alabama who is supportive of the President’s proposal, according to AL.com – Representative Terri Sewell. Commenters on Facebook are calling for her to be replaced in the next election over her position.
With no end in sight to the influx of “undocumented” (i.e. illegal) immigrants, there are accusations that some in the Obama administration are actually orchestrating the crisis for political gain. Certainly much division and passion has arisen on the issue. At least in the state of Alabama, most of that passion is directed against the President’s scheme.
People are concerned about the well-being of the children, certainly, but are also concerned about governmental policies that enable those children to face dangerous and deplorable conditions along the way. One thing is certain: there are a great many people in Alabama who do not want illegal immigrant children to be housed at Maxwell AFB.