Byrne, others voice opposition to Baldwin County immigrant holding sites

In this 2014 file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border in Karnes City, Texas. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)
In this 2014 file photo, detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border in Karnes City, Texas. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)

Congressman Bradley Byrne states that the sites lack the infrastructure to house the migrants.

Posted: Jun 27, 2018 7:15 AM
Updated: Jun 27, 2018 7:26 AM

In the wake of reporting on Friday that detained migrants were set to be housed at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach and Navy Outlying Field Silverhill, several lawmakers in Alabama, led by Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL), voiced strong opposition.

The Navy memo was first obtained by TIME describes the tent cities, which would house 25,000 people, as "temporary and austere."

The TIME article goes onto state that "The planning document estimates that the Navy would spend about $233 million to construct and operate a facility for 25,000 people for a six-month time period. The proposal suggests these tent cities be built to last between six months and one year."

On Tuesday, Byrne drafted a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

In it, Byrne argues that the sites suggested lack the infrastructure to house the migrants.

The letter was cosigned by Representatives Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Martha Roby (R-AL), and Mike Rogers (R-AL).

You can read the full letter by clicking here or scroll down.

Dear Secretary Mattis and Secretary Nielson:

We write to express strong opposition to the consideration of Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s Naval Outlying Field (NOLF) Silverhill in Silverhill, Alabama and NOLF Wolf in Orange Beach, Alabama as detention facilities for illegal immigrants detained from the U.S. southern border as these locations cannot adequately meet the needs of housing and sustaining migrants.

While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not formally asked the Department of Defense (DOD) for assistance to house migrants, it has come to our attention that DHS is working with DOD to develop a plan to house immigrants in temporary tent structures, including the possibility of using the above-mentioned sites.

These locations are undeveloped military airfields. They lack even basic infrastructure, such as running water, housing, or restroom facilities, to provide even rudimentary needs for detained immigrants. Given this lack of infrastructure, individuals would be housed in tents and potentially exposed to disease-carrying insects that are prevalent in the coastal environment.

There are also serious natural hazards that should be taken into consideration at these sites. The Gulf Coast region is prone to severe weather including hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, thunderstorms, severe heat waves, and high humidity. These natural hazards could present serious risks to those housed at these facilities, particularly to those housed in tent structures, as well as the personnel responsible for overseeing the facilities. Additionally, having to evacuate an additional 25,000 individuals from the airfields would place a further strain on what is already a complex hurricane evacuation system.

This is not the first time a proposal has been made to use these airfields to house illegal immigrants. In 2016, the Obama Administration ultimately abandoned a similar effort to use these sites after intense pushback from Congress and local officials. During that discussion, based upon similar arguments, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the annual Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill (H.R. 4974), which barred funds in the bill from being used to modify a military installation in the United States to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied alien children. H.R. 4974, with the amendment included, passed the House on May 19, 2016, by a bipartisan vote of 295 to 129.

It is our sincere hope that the Trump Administration will come to the same conclusion that these airfields are not a legitimate option to house illegal immigrants. To be clear, we look forward to working with the Trump Administration to ensure that our nation’s immigration laws are fully enforced and to stem the flow of illegal immigrants at our nation’s southern border. As we work together, we hope you can assure us that the naval airfields in Baldwin County will not be used to house illegal immigrants.

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