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Gov. Deval Patrick plans temporary housing for child refugees


Surrounded by religious leaders, Gov. Deval Patrick announced last week that the Commonwealth will provide shelter for undocumented children who have traveled from Central America across the U.S. border and are now locked up in overcrowded detention facilities. Massachusetts will provide 90,000 square feet of space for up to 1,000 of the child detainees, according to Patrick.

The detainees are part of a wave of more than 60,000 who have left Central American countries in recent years – primarily Honduras and El Salvador – to flee rampant violence. The children currently in detention will either be reunited with family members living in the United States or deported.

Patrick has proposed housing the children either at the Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne or the Westover Air Base in Chicopee.

“While the reasons for this surge of new arrivals still need to be understood and addressed, and the debate over immigration reform continues, it bears remembering that these are children alone in a foreign land,” Patrick said in a press conference last week. “They will need age-appropriate toys and books. They will also need the company of responsible adults, especially those who speak Spanish. As a parent and as one who has himself been a stranger in a strange land, I know this will matter.”

The governor’s plan to house the children in Massachusetts has drawn fire from Republicans, who object housing the immigrants in here. Patrick also drew fire for likening the children to Jewish refugees fleeing violence in Nazi Germany.

“Once, in 1939, we turned our backs on Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, and it remains a blight on our national reputation,” he said. “The point is that this good Nation is great when we open our doors and our hearts to needy children, and diminished when we don’t.”

Seekonk Republican Steven Howitt objected to the comparison in a Boston Herald interview

“I just feel that one does not equate one to the other, and to compare Central America to Nazi Germany is just ludicrous,” Howitt told the Herald.

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