Patrick: Westover Air Base Could House Migrant Children Crossing The Border

Gov. Deval Patrick has offered to house up to 1,000 children from Central America in a temporary shelter at either the Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne or Westover Air Base in Chicopee as they await immigration processing, the governor announced Friday morning during an emotional press conference in which he invoked patriotism and faith as reasons he decided to respond to the “humanitarian crisis” presented by minors flooding across the country’s southwestern border.

Click the audio player above to hear reaction from state Sen. Don Humason, who represents part of Chicopee. Humason, who was interviewed by New England Public Radio’s Henry Epp, opposes the governor’s proposal.

Patrick held a press conference in the State House Friday morning explaining that the Obama administration would now vet each site.

The federal government asked Massachusetts whether it could provide shelter for up to 1,000 children for a expected period of up to four months after more than 50,000 children in recent months have flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border crowding shelters.

Patrick, who was on the verge of tears at one point as he quoted from scripture, said the average stay of a child would likely be 35 days, and while in the shelter they would be provided with food, bed, medical screening and education paid for by the federal government.

Patrick was joined at the press conference by faith leaders, including Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

“We believe that you’re doing the right thing,” said Rev. John Borders of Morning Star Baptist Church in Boston.

Treasurer Steven Grossman said he cancelled events in Worcester to attend the event.

While some state officials, including a number of Republican lawmakers, have expressed their concerns over Massachusetts volunteering to shelter these unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally, Patrick said, “This isn’t a political decision.”

If Massachusetts is selected, the federal government would maintain full control of the facility while it is being used as a shelter and the children are processed for deportation, reunion with family living in the United States, or, in some cases, asylum, the governor said.