BOSTON (CBS)- About a thousand people crowded the front steps of the State House Saturday, rallying against Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to grant temporary shelter to Central American children.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived at the United States’ southern border since October, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Last week Patrick suggested two Massachusetts bases be used to shelter up to 1,000 of those children while they await a court hearing.
“My greatest concern is that when my grandchild is ready to go to school, there won’t be a seat for him,” said Karen Williams of Dorchester.
Williams echoed the sentiment shared by many at the Beacon Hill rally that immigration issues strain resources that should be used to take care of Americans.
“The border patrol agents are so preoccupied with taking care of these children, they’re not able to focus on preventing dangerous criminals and terrorists from coming across the border,” said Kate Wilson.
Former Marine Wayne Bresnahan of South Boston felt the bases under consideration – Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee and Camp Edwards on Cape Cod- should be used to care for military members in need.
“I can’t understand how [Obama and Patrick] can tell U.S. Marines, on our bases, to get off and they’re going to put all illegal immigrants on there,” said Bresnahan. “There are homeless veterans outside who can’t come on the base and eat.”
Some protesters take issue with immigrants who come to the U.S. without a way to support themselves.
“My grandparents came from Arab countries in 1875 and they didn’t come with their hands out,” said Mary Moran. “The immigrants came to utilize the freedoms, to go after their potential and to build businesses. When they couldn’t, they would help each other. They didn’t go to the government.”
Meanwhile advocacy groups in Boston say the plan proposed by Gov. Patrick is not supporting illegal immigrants, rather asylum seekers.
“If we were in a ship and saw a raft with children sinking, we would help them aboard. We wouldn’t say you’re an illegal passenger,” says Franklin Soults of Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA).
Soults believes the unaccompanied minors are not an immigration issue, rather a regional humanitarian crisis the U.S. is obligated to respond to.
“Many of them would face rape or even murder if they were sent back,” said Soults. “These are people seeking refuge and we have laws in the United States that allow up to some 70,000 or more refugees to come every year and this would be under that limit.”
Back on Beacon Hill, others believe this recent wave of immigrants are being used to spin agendas.
“There should absolutely be reform for immigration, but what people have to wake up to is the fact that this is a political manipulation,” said Helen Marrone, a member of the town of Carver’s Board of Selectmen. “When Obama said he wants to fundamentally change the United States, he meant it but not in a positive way.”
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