Cape Cod is about as far from the Rio Grande as you can get- over 2,200 miles to be exact- but Camp Edwards, the national guard base in Bourne, has become an unlikely flash point in the national debate over illegal immigration.
That’s after a proposal that the base host some of the migrant children now crossing over the U.S.-Mexican border. By all accounts, the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children streaming over the U.S. border is a humanitarian crisis and Governor Deval Patrick says Massachusetts must help.
"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," he said at a July 18th press conference.
The governor is proposing to house up to 1,000 children at one of two sites, Camp Edwards in Bourne or Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Mass. And Patrick says local governments won’t bear any costs.
"Everything for the children will be provided at the facility by the federal government. How they contract that out, I don’t know," he said.
But the idea of housing migrant children at Camp Edwards has divided Cape residents in Bourne. At a town meeting last Tuesday, the Board of Selectman debated whether to support the governor’s plan to use Camp Edwards. Board chairman Peter Meier says it was a contentious meeting.
"Do I regret the decision of the other night? No. But do I regret the process? Yes, the process would be different next time, because there were some people that were a little off the cuff, to say the least, at the podium," he said.
In the end, the board voted unanimously to send a letter of opposition to the governor. Meier says there are still too many unanswered questions.
"Are we gonna have a voice in the creation of the memorandum of understanding process? That’s gonna be the biggest thing, because if we are gonna have a voice and all that, then at least we’ll have some controls in place in the agreement that if the town provides services, we will be reimbursed," he said.
Providing basic services to residents is already no easy task, according to Meier. He says Bourne is at risk of seeing its bond rating downgraded next year. Meier says he and the town are sympathetic to the plight of the migrant children – but to a limit.
"The children should not be neglected. However, we have our own children here that need the help and the services as well."
The town is now waiting for the governor’s response.