Baldwin County Commissioners will get the opportunity to question representatives from the federal government about the Department of Health and Human Services plan to house unaccompanied illegal alien children at a pair of outlying airfields in Baldwin County, and the public will get to listen to the call, in an open work session on Tuesday in Robertsdale.
Last week HHS notified state and local officials that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of HHS, is trying to identify locations to provide shelter for potential increases in unaccompanied children apprehended at the Mexican border.
The department plans to schedule site assessments at the Naval Outlying Fields in Silverhill and Josephine to determine the feasibility of using the sites as semipermanent shelters if HHS exceeds its current shelter capacity. Wolf Field is located north of Bay La Launch in Josephine, while the Silverhill field is located south of Baldwin County 54 and north of State Highway 104, west of River Road South.
On Thursday, Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott said commissioners will host a teleconference with federal government officials to discuss the matter. The work session is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. at the commission’s annex at 22251 Palmer Street in Robertsdale. Work sessions are public meetings and are open to media and the general public.
Elliott, as well as other state and local officials, have questioned the reasoning behind the plan to study the fields, saying there is no infrastructure at the sites.
“This is largely a question about the lack of infrastructure out there,” Elliott said. “If they do this, they would be putting a bunch of kids out there in temporary structures, possibly in the middle of hurricane season. I think at the end of the day, once they hear our concerns, they may rethink this plan.”
Elliott previously told Lagniappe the fields were designed for pilots to practice taking off and landing, and there was never any intent of housing people there for any period of time. Elliott said the sites are “woefully inadequate” to house children, or anyone, and the federal government should consider alternative sites.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne sent an open letter to the Obama Administration urging officials to reconsider the plan. The letter was addressed to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. The letter, co-written by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Florida), cites Byrne’s “grave concerns” over the plan.
“We have grave concerns with these locations and do not believe they can adequately meet the needs of the minor children,” the letter reads. “The locations chosen for use are military airfields, and they lack the structural infrastructure.
“There are also serious natural hazards that should be taken into consideration,” the letter reads. “This Gulf Coast area is prone to severe tropical storms including hurricanes, tornadoes, and flash floods. These natural hazards could present serious risks to the children, as well as the personnel responsible for overseeing the facility.”
In the letter, Byrne decries “The Obama Administration’s weak interior enforcement policies, executive action on immigration, and the perception of amnesty have become a powerful magnet that encourages illegal immigration across our border.”
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