State and local officials and members of law enforcement met at the State House Thursday to discuss Massachusetts’ possible involvement in housing children who crossed the nation’s southern border illegally. There was little new information about the proposal, but lots of drama.
The meeting was called by the House Republicans to talk about Governor Deval Patrick’s proposal to temporarily care for the children at either a military base in Chicopee or one in Bourne. Officials gather behind closed doors. Reporters weren’t allowed in and neither were protesters, who were having none of it.
“We have to do this in order for them to listen to us! You see because all the time we follow protocol, right? Yes!” they said. “And we’re tired! And they never want to talk to us and we’re tired!”
Pro-immigration groups demanded to be included in the conversation and they tried to push their way into the office. Finally the officials came out.
Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowictz told reporters the primary concern from local sheriffs and mayors is what ultimately happens to the children.
“I’ve used the funnel analogy,” he said. “The funnel would be if we had up to 1,000 kids here, about 80% of those kids have an identified sponsor.”
So 80 percent are placed with a parent or family member in the community, and 20 percent would go to a federal facility. Polanowictz says there’s only one foster home in the state equipped to accept the children and it’s already near capacity.
Not participating in the press conference was Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the mayor of Lynn, who’s been quoted in TV reports as not pleased with the influx of children from Central America who she says are draining the city’s resources. As she left the room, she got in a screaming match with protesters.
Mayor Kennedy begrudgingly agreed to meet with the protesters. She said she’d set up an appointment…and then quickly left the building.