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Effort to bring illegal immigrants is bad policy and bad politics

Date: 7/24/2014

If there is one issue that indicates just how broken our ability is to work out solutions it’s illegal immigration.

The non-functioning of government was on display on several levels last week locally when Gov. Deval Patrick offered two locations to federal authorities as sites to temporarily house children who are illegal immigrants while they are being processed for deportation. One of these was Westover Air Reserve Base.

We’ve had a problem with illegal immigration from Central America for years. So far the efforts of the last few presidential administrations have not adequately stemmed the tide of people who are seeking safety and jobs in the United States.

It is clear that unrest in countries such as Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world, is only going to drive more people to seek some sort of relief.

Hope for a new life has been established through employers who hire illegal immigrants.

It would have been commendable if Congress and the Obama Administration could have worked something out by now about illegal immigration, but the House of Representatives hasn’t been too interested in what used to happen regularly in American politics: debate and compromise.

At the same time, Massachusetts has its own domestic problems. People who require assistance  – whether it’s the poor or minor children – are not getting what they need due to strained resources.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno recently attracted national attention because of his reluctance to allow more refugees in the city because of lack of funding and support.

Chicopee has been the epicenter of the state’s housing of homeless families in motels in our region, something that has added challenges to that community.

Patrick’s emotional pleas may have been sincere and heartfelt, but it wasn’t good politics or sound policy.

Having your chief of staff call Chicopee’s Mayor Richard Kos and tell him what the governor is planning to do is not the same as having a discussion with Kos about the details of such a plan. It’s not the same as asking Kos to be on-board with the proposal.

This is all part of practical politics – reaching a consensus. That didn’t happen in this case. Did the governor’s staff speak about exactly what Chicopee’s involvement would be if the children came to Westover? Did they understand the city is still wincing from the impact of the homeless in the hotels?

Was the message the federal government will pay for everything and the children will be confined to a federal facility – Westover – conveyed adequately?

Clearly, Patrick’s advisors hadn’t considered the possible reaction from Chicopee’s elected officials.

Kos said in part, “Though the city of Chicopee is sensitive and concerned about the humanitarian issue that has developed, the potential location of these children at Westover Air Reserve Base makes no sense. We have and are continuing to work to preserve Westover for its military role both locally and in the nation. I am proud to work with Congressman [Richard] Neal in that effort. Though it is a federal Department of Defense decision, the concern we have locally is the impact on an operational airfield and on that base’s operation.”

Kos concluded, “We are not aware of any lodging which would be available given the fact that base housing there is utilized weekly and on weekends by military personnel.  Though the governor indicates no impact on the local community, we are more than skeptical about that.”

And therein lies the rub. Kos doesn’t trust that Chicopee won’t be negatively affected by the illegals.

As I write this on July 21, no decision has been made by federal authorities to take Patrick up on his offer. It may never happen and this may have been just a tempest in a teapot.

All of this angst may turn out to have been completely unnecessary, except it was a lesson in how government on the federal and state level is not working very well. While I understand Patrick’s willingness to help, the only real solution is to develop a national immigration policy that can address the issues confronting us. 

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.