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Hanscom Air Force Base might house unaccompanied kids

By O'Ryan Johnson and Lindsay Kalter | Boston Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 7, 2016

Federal officials plan to tour Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford, Mass., with an eye toward housing unaccompanied children who have crossed the southern border into the United States illegally.

Hanscom is one of six military bases nationwide under consideration, the federal Department of Health and Human Services confirmed. HHS has asked the Department of Defense to make 5,000 beds available.

"Representatives from HHS will visit Hanscom Air Force Base in the coming days to determine if our installation is suitable for them to temporarily provide shelter for Unaccompanied Children under their care," an HHS statement said. "Base officials will join the HHS staff as they tour the vacant facilities available for HHS' use. HHS will make the final determination if they will use Hanscom Air Force Base for Unaccompanied Children operations."

Gov. Charlie Baker's office vowed to cooperate if Hanscom is selected.

"Federal officials notified the administration that they plan to visit Hanscom Air Force Base to assess its feasibility for housing unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border, but this decision lies solely with the federal government," said Tim Buckley, communication director with Baker's office. "Should federal officials decide to locate children here, the administration will work closely with our federal partners to ensure the children's safety and work with the local community throughout the process."

The governor's office said prior to his election, Baker stated that he would assist the feds in housing illegal immigrant children at Bay State military bases. Health and Human Services representatives said they plan to tour the base in the coming days.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Salem), whose district includes Hanscom, told the Herald, "They did not consult me. I don't know anything about it."

The move has one local activist concerned that it could end up costing the state tax money while fueling the black market for human trafficking.

"Why would we facilitate this failed policy that is resulting in more and more illegal immigration," said Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies. "This population has been a huge strain on the cities of Lynn and Milford. What sort of public safety threat does this represent? The administration has been engaged in a failed policy at the border that continues to inspire more and more people to pay smugglers to take their children across the border."

HHS, responding to a surge of thousands of Central American children being moved across the border without their parents, asked the Department of Defense for assistance early last year. Children without parents or legal guardians who are apprehended at U.S. borders by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are transferred to HHS, which is legally required to care for them.
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