Bradley Byrne has been down this road before. In 2016 the Obama administration, through the United States Department of Health and Human Services, was studying housing unattended child immigrants at Navy airfields in rural Baldwin County.
“Last time Commissioner [Tucker] Dorsey, Commissioner [Chris] Elliott, Sheriff [Hoss] Mack and I fought against this and we’ve got the band back together,” Byrne deadpanned.
Up now is the Trump administration’s plan to house 25,000 or so illegal aliens at the airfields, one near Silverhill and one on the north side of Wolf Bay near Orange Beach and Josephine. Time magazine came across a leaked Navy memo detailing the plans, which also include housing immigrants at military facilities in California and Arizona. This week, a group of Baldwin County officials was headed to Washington to question the White House about the camps, Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott said on his Facebook account on Tuesday.
Byrne, a Republican who Alabama’s District 1 in Congress, was quick to come out with a response once he heard about the Time report.
“We have successfully fought efforts to house illegal immigrants in Baldwin County before, and we will do the same again because the proposal makes no sense,” Byrne said. “Housing anyone in tents on the Gulf Coast during the heat of summer and the heart of hurricane season would be inhumane and a major mistake. I am committed to working with our local officials to fight back against this misguided idea.”
Byrne said the issue magnifies the need to tighten borders, build a wall and advance Trump administration immigration policies.
“The whole issue just underscores why it is so important we secure our borders and crack down on illegal immigration,” he said.
The Navy confirmed it is studying the plan in a response to Byrne’s office, Communications Director Seth Morrow said.
“The Department of Defense is conducting prudent planning and is looking nationwide at DoD installations should [the Department of Homeland Security] ask for assistance in housing adult illegal immigrants,” the statement reads. “At this time there has been no request from DHS for DoD support to house illegal migrants.”
At least one local official is backing Byrne’s opposition to the plan and is willing to lend a hand.
“We have been in touch with our federally elected officials and have asked that they take the lead in stopping this nonsense,” Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said. “We will do whatever they need us to do here on a local level to do the same.”
On Tuesday, the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation also sent a letter to Scott Lloyd, director of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, “strongly opposing” any plan to use the Navy’s Silverhill and Wolf fields for housing migrants.
“The two airfields are several hundred acres in size and surrounded only by a low fence,” the letter reads. Further, “both of these sites have been directly impacted by hurricanes Ivan and Katrina. Even a storm smaller than a tropical storm could damage temporary housing at the sites and the county has experienced as much as 30 inches of rain during weather events. Hurricane season has recently started and will last until November.”