It’s just a possibility at this point, but officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say children refugees crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. could be housed on our naval airfields on a semi-permanent basis.
“I’m extremely surprised, especially that it’s Baldwin County,” says Tonya Thompson. “I feel like we have enough to take care of here at home.”
Tonya Thompson lives near one of the airfields up for assessment—Naval Outlying Field Silverhill in Daphne. Her concern is whether these migrant children have been socialized properly or if having them here will cause more trouble than it’s worth.
“How do we know they’re not already involved in illegal activity? How do we know we’re safe right down the road? They’re going to get out, they’re going to do their thing and how are we going to prevent that? How are we going to prevent them from taking more than what we’re offering?”
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby says he’ll fight the initiative, saying in a statement Friday–“These Department of Defense properties should be used for those men and women working to keep our nation safe – not to house illegal immigrants.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne says these children should be returned to their home countries and adds “These airfields are designed for military use, and they are not built or equipped to house young children.”
Dana Bauer lives just a mile from the airfield.
“Shock, total shock.”
Her main concern is for the children.
“I can’t imagine leaving children in a strange country, somewhere where they have no one. They’re away from their family. I don’t care about which country you come from,” says Bauer.
Bauer fears the environment will leave the children in a worse situation. And it’s painfully obvious that at this point, we have more questions than answers.
“An airfield, it’s just an airstrip. There’s no trees, there’s no housing, what will they be housed in? How will they take baths, where will they go to the bathroom, who’s going to take care of these children?”
Besides OLF Silverhill, Naval Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach is also being considered. The office of Refugee Resettlement will assess the airfields with safety officials to determine if they’re feasible for housing these unattended children crossing the Mexican border. The airfields are being considered due to a fear of running out of the shelter capacity currently available.