At best, “I have made up my mind—don’t confuse me with the facts” motivated the selectmen to send a letter to Governor Patrick opposing housing immigrant children at Camp Edwards. Another possibility is that it was based on the same racial hostility expressed by some people at the July 22 selectmen’s meeting. The selectmen’s future actions will reveal which was the true motivation.
First, the facts as known to the selectmen when they sent the letter. State official Kurt Schwartz had just described how the children would be housed. They would be placed in a secure facility on the base. No children would attend Bourne schools. Medical care—with the exception of emergency hospital care—would be provided by the federal government. The base has its own police and fire services so Bourne public safety services would not be necessary. He assured the selectmen there would be no cost to the town. In order to appease possible concerns that the state would not make good on his word, he offered to have a Memorandum of Agreement signed with Bourne to embody these assurances, and address any other concerns the town raised.
After Mr. Schwartz spoke, people were permitted to address the selectmen. Some who spoke uttered some of the most racist and hateful comments I have ever heard at an public meeting. After these statements, the selectmen voted to send the Governor a letter flatly opposing the children because of the impact on schools and police and human services, claiming Bourne does not have “the financial or public safety staffing resources.”
Since it was clear after Mr. Schwartz’s presentation that the reasons given in the letter were false, one is left to wonder: why did they send the letter? Since the selectmen sat mute for the hateful comments by the public, the letter at least gave the appearance that they agreed with the speakers who simply don’t want “those people” in our town, even if all the town’s demands are met.
If racial hostility was not the reason for the letter, the selectmen should say so, and revise their position. Make it clear that they do not per se oppose aiding children in need, no matter where they are from. If they don’t do something to counter the perception that their actions were motivated by racial hostility, in future elections I hope people remember this abhorrent behavior and vote accordingly.
William F. Grant