Rep. Hunt: Little Interaction Foreseen Between Towns, Detained Children

Should unaccompanied minor alien children be housed on Joint Base Cape Cod, state and federal officials say they will have little if any interaction with the communities surrounding the base, according to state Representative Randy Hunt of Sandwich.

Mr. Hunt reported Thursday evening, July 24, to the Sandwich Board of Selectmen on a meeting held earlier that day at the State House in Boston to discuss Governor Deval L. Patrick’s proposal to temporarily accept up to 1,000 of the children in Massachusetts to aid clogged federal immigration courts.

The children, who are from Central American nations such as Honduras, have been flooding across the south Texas border with Mexico in hopes of finding sanctuary in the United States from difficult living situations in their native lands.

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Their numbers have overloaded the immigration courts, prompting the federal government to ask the states for help in detaining the children until their cases can be heard.

Mr. Hunt said the state has judged two places suitable for detaining the children: Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee and Joint Base Cape Cod.

Should children be brought to Joint Base Cape Cod, they would be housed on the base for an average of 35 days while awaiting action in immigration court, Mr. Hunt learned at the July 24  meeting at the State House.

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would determine which, if any, children would be sent to Joint Base Cape Cod.

The children would be housed in a secure facility that would be built by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. They would be flown in and out on charter flights using the Otis runways.

Mr. Hunt said he learned that the federal government would be providing services for the children at the facility.

Officials, he said, anticipate very little or no interaction by the children with the surrounding communities.

One possible exception: if any of the children had medical needs that could not be met on the base. In that case, Mr. Hunt said, an ambulance would take the children to an off-base hospital. The federal government would pay for the treatment.

An agreement between the federal government and Massachusetts to detain the children at the base would be covered in a memorandum of understanding for a 120-day period.

Mr. Hunt said 120 days is the standard length of time that the federal human service agency uses for its contracts.

The state representative said his goal was to learn as much factual information as possible about the potential detention plan.

“There’s been a lot of emotion that’s been happening about all this thing that is not that helpful,” Mr. Hunt said.

The selectmen complimented Mr. Hunt on the thoroughness of his report, and did not have any questions for him.

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