Maxwell no solution to immigration problem

Published 2:23 am Saturday, July 26, 2014


The influx of immigrant children from Central America across the Mexican border has brought an already strained immigration situation to a full blown crisis. But, this problem is not isolated to border states. It could affect Alabama in a major way.

I recently became aware of talks between the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services assessing the potential for Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery to house detained immigrants. Although the discussions are preliminary and no actions have been taken, I felt it was important to act immediately to prevent such an arrangement.

Under no circumstances should these children be sent to Maxwell-Gunter, or to any other military installation for that matter. Our military bases are built to support the critical needs of our defense efforts across the globe, not to house, feed, and care for illegal immigrant children.

I along with my colleague Rep. Mike Rogers, who also represents a portion of Montgomery, wrote the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services outlining our opposition to the placement of detained children at Maxwell-Gunter. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am actively working to include conditions within any supplemental appropriations legislation to expressly prohibit the government from housing detained immigrants on military bases.

The truth is these children must be sent back to their home countries. We will do it with the utmost compassion and care, but it has to be done. Some say sending the children back would be cruel and calloused, but we have to look at the bigger picture. These children did not arrive by accident. There is an organized trafficking scheme that is preying on families in Central America, selling promises of a life in the United States to poor parents and children.

These children endure horrendous conditions as they make the long journey, in most cases with no ability to communicate with their families, no guardian to protect them and no financial resources to provide for them. By the time they finally reach the border, many will have suffered severe physical and sexual abuse.

Allowing the detainees to stay in the United States is actually the least compassionate option because it invites even more children to endure the brutality of this organized trafficking scheme.

The only way this tragic situation will end is if parents in Central America become convinced that the plan human smugglers are tricking them into won’t work. They need to see American planes landing in their countries bringing the children back home.

The border crisis is a uniquely challenging problem for our country, and one that won’t be solved overnight. As your representative, I remain engaged on this important issue and will be sure to share any significant developments publicly.