Maxwell-Gunter no place to house immigrants

Published 12:26 am Saturday, January 16, 2016


You might recall that over a year ago the Obama Administration proposed using Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery to house hundreds of illegal immigrant minors detained at the Mexican border. I was adamantly opposed to this proposal and worked with the my colleagues in the Alabama delegation to shut it down.

Now, Administration officials are at it again. The Pentagon quietly sent an email to my office over the holidays informing us that Maxwell-Gunter was among six military bases being assessed by the Department of Health and Human Services as a place to house children from the influx of minors at the southern border while they await deportation. This is a terrible idea for a number of reasons, and I wasted no time working to stop it from going forward.

I immediately wrote the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to state my strong objections and let them know I will fight any attempt to bring detained minors on base. I then went to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to raise awareness and let Administration officials know we are paying attention.

I have also been in touch with leaders on base in Montgomery to discuss the potential effect this would have on their mission. That’s the real issue here. Our active military installations have very important jobs to do. At Maxwell-Gunter, that includes things like training, education and cyber activities, many times in classified settings that are very sensitive. There’s no question in my mind that forcing our base to house and secure hundreds of illegal minors would negatively impact the mission. We cannot allow that to happen.

The truth is these minors 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 even 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.

We worked hard to shut this effort down the first time, and I will do everything I can to see it shut down again.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. She is currently serving her third term.