BOURNE – Governor Deval Patrick announced this morning that he has told the federal government that either Camp Edwards on Joint Base Cape Cod or Westover Air Reserve Base in Chocopee can be used to house some of the juvenile detainees coming over the border from Mexico.
The governor became emotional as he quoted scripture and called the matter “a humanitarian issue.” Joining him for this morning’s announcement were members of the clergy from a number of denominations.
The governor first broached the plan yesterday during a visit to Cape Cod in which he said President Obama had reached out to ask if Massachusetts could help.
State Representative David Vieira (R-Falmouth), whose district splits the military reservation with Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich), said he is strongly opposed to President Obama’s policy on the issue.
Vieira helped to organize the base for several hundred victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but he said this circumstance is not like that one.
“This is much different than having a natural disaster in the United States and displacing American citizens. I believe that the President needs to sit down with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees and they need to get the United Nations to look at hosting return facilities in each of these children’s home countries,” he said.
Vieira spoke to the governor yesterday at an event in Mashpee. He said he voiced his concern with the idea of hosting the children at Camp Edwards.
He said he has heard from constituents in Falmouth and Mashpee and town officials in Bourne with concerns about the immigrant children being housed at the Cape’s military base.
The Bourne town officials are concerned about the affect on the Bourne Public Schools, Vieira said.
Vieira said he also spoke to the state Secretary of Health and Human Services at the same event and he said, if the children come, they would not be sent to Bourne schools.
“They would be stabilized. If they were to use Camp Edwards as a facility, they would keep them there and they would educate them there,” Vieira said the secretary told him.
Vieira said that the approximately 200 Katrina victims were educated in the Bourne schools.
After today’s announcement from the governor, Vieira said he is also concerned because Camp Edwards is designated as the Cape’s emergency shelter if there is a catastrophic event like a hurricane.
“Beyond that, I have local concerns in regard to our emergency traffic plan. It’s hurricane season and that facility is part of our emergency plan for Cape Cod,” he said.