Migrant Children May Be Sheltered in Massachusetts

Jul 21, 2014

"We have thousands of undocumented Central Americans living here in Springfield."
Bliss Requa-Trautz

According to the independent think tank The Migration Policy Institute, 85 percent of the Central American migrant children who have arrived in the U.S. over the past few months are reunited with relatives here. Most go to places with established communities of Central American families, including cities in Connecticut like New Haven and Hartford. Others go to Massachusetts.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has offered to house up to 1,000 recently arrived children from Central America in temporary shelters either at Westover Air Base in Chicopee, or on a base in Cape Cod.

Bliss Requa-Trautz, with the Springfield immigration rights group called Just Communities, told New England Public Radio that she’s working with about 30 minors, mostly from Guatemala. "We have thousands of undocumented Central Americans living here in Springfield," she said, "and also a smattering across western Mass. with the farming and agricultural community. A lot of folks are actually living on farms."

Republican State Senator Don Humason opposes the plan to house the migrant children at Westover Air Base. He said there are more urgent priorities for the use of tax dollars, and that it doesn't matter that the feds would foot the bill.

"Where does the federal government get its revenue but from American citizens; taxpayers; people who pay their taxes or fees or fines or tolls?" Humason said. "The money goes to the federal government. I would like to see that money to come back, and take care of American citizens first."

On the streets of Chicopee, Robert Nason said the kids have to go somewhere. "Someone’s got to take care of them if their county can’t take care of them." he said. "I guess its up to us. You can’t just throw them out to the street, and say, here you go. Someone’s got to take responsibility."

In Connecticut, Governor Malloy has denied a request from federal authorities to temporarily house migrant children at Southbury Training School. State officials said that was due to issues of capacity and the property’s state of disrepair.

The Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance is holding a rally on Tuesday afternoon in support of refugee children in Connecticut. It will take place in New Haven at Gateway Community College at 20 Church Street on July 22 at 4:00 pm.