Local officials react to Westover immigrant housing plan - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Local officials react to Westover immigrant housing plan

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The possibility of Westover Air Reserve Base housing up to 1,000 immigrant children is not being taken lightly in Chicopee.

"It caught me by surprise this morning," Westover Air Reserve Base Master Sgt. Andrew Biscoe said of the news that the children could be placed at the base for up to four months as they wait for deportation, or to be reunited with families.

"None of these facilities are about permanent housing," Gov. Deval Patrick said. "They are about having a place that is safe and secure and appropriate."

Patrick says average stays, based on previous experiences, are about 35 days.

"And though the governor indicates no impact on the local community, we are more than skeptical about that," Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos said at a press conference Friday afternoon.

Local officials say moving the children to Massachusetts isn't the right move. They worry about additional education and public safety measures and what will happen when their time is up.

"My advice to Governor Patrick was to say no," State Sen. Donald Humason said.

He and Mayor Kos say there's no room for these children at the base.

"Westover should not be an option because it's not an option," Kos said.

But Patrick says he proposed Westover as one of the two possible Baystate locations because the children need Massachusetts' help.

"And I think we have the capacity in every way including compassion to make that offering and do so in good faith," Patrick said.

But Humason disagrees.

"We can't do all things for all people as much as we'd like to, as much as our hearts want to try, we just can't afford it," he said.

Sgt. Biscoe says the base is still working to understand the changes that would have to be made. But in the end, the federal government owns the base and will make the final decision on the proposal.

"We do our job here as best we can as a federal base and we follow the orders of those above us," he said.

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