Amid the controversy of immigration reform and what to do with the children who have crossed the US-Mexico border illegally, one politician has announced a religious solution. Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick said he would offer temporary shelter for 1,000 of the immigrant children detained by the U.S. government. He referred to his personal faith as his inspiration, reports the Boston Globe.
Overcome with emotion, Patrick quoted scripture while speaking to religious leaders at the state capitol during a press conference. Using the Bible, the Governor framed the immigration problem as a moral one and took the debate out of the political realm. "I believe that we will one day have to answer for our actions and our inactions…My faith teaches that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt," spoke Patrick, referencing Exodus 22:21.
Speaking to reporters at the news conference Patrick said, "Every major faith tradition on the planet charges its followers to treat others as we ourselves wish to be treated. I don't know what good there is in faith if we can't, and won't turn to it in moments of human need."
Currently, the United States is scrambling to find shelter for 50,000 unaccompanied minors, most fleeing from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Unaccompanied children from Central America are trying to escape gang violence and have been arriving at the U.S. southern border by the thousands. They come, drawn by rumors that once here they can stay. It is expected that 90,000 illegal immigrant children will have crossed the border by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
Two locations in Massachusetts are being considered. Camp Edwards military base on Cape Cod and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee have been mentioned as possible sites. The temporary shelters would be open for four months and the average stay for a child would be about 35 days. According to Patrick, the sheltered children will receive health screenings and vaccinations before entering the state and will not attend local public schools. While in the shelters, the children will be processed by immigration officials for deportation, reunification or asylum on a case by case basis.
According to the Governor, the final site selection would be handled by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He says he has been assured by the federal government that all costs related to housing and processing the children would be covered by Washington. Governors in other states have struggled with decision to respond to the federal government’s requests for help. Patrick said this is precisely why he held a press conference on Friday. He wanted to explain his reasoning behind offering shelter.
The governor’s office will eventually be accepting donations of toys and books. They are also looking for volunteers who speak Spanish. Since it is not yet clear whether volunteers will be allowed on base, officials are not sure if they will even be able to help. The federal government is technically in charge of the children’s care.