Unaccompanied minors from Central and South America will not be temporarily housed at a pair of U.S. Navy airfields in rural Baldwin County, according to a letter from the federal Department of Health and Human Services to county commissioners on Thursday.
In the letter, HHS Regional Director Pamela Roshell told commissioners the outlying fields in the Baldwin communities of Silverhill and Josephine are on a list of six other locations that are no longer being considered for the program. The letter said HHS will look soon conduct an assessment of property located in Dona Ana, New Mexico for potential use as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children.
“Military airfields in Southwest Alabama are not the place to house illegal migrant children, and I am glad the Obama Administration finally realized that,” Rep. Bradley Byrne said in a statement released to media. “My office, along with other Alabama leaders, have worked hard to block this outrageous proposal, and I am pleased our efforts have been successful.”
According to HHS, the unaccompanied children who have been apprehended at the southern border would have been housed in semipermanent shelters at the sites as they are processed through the immigration court system before their eventual release from the program when the federal government connects them with a family member or a close family friend who can serve as a guardian. Typically, children remain in the program an average of 30 days.
According to HHS, roughly 90 percent of the children apprehended at the Southern border come from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Last month Byrne sponsored an amendment to a Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would bar it from using defense funds to modify military installations to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied undocumented children in the United States.
“The reality is the larger problem of illegal immigration will not go away until we get serious about enforcing the immigration laws already on the books and actually secure our borders,” Byrne said. “I will continue to make those some of my top priorities here in Congress.”
Baldwin County Commissioners have also strongly opposed the plan, sending multiple letters in opposition to HHS and hosting a conference call with representatives from the federal government during a public work session last month.
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