MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – More than 400 immigrant children have been placed with sponsors in Alabama, according to federal figures released Thursday, and more could be coming with officials saying Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery is being considered for housing.
A division of the Department of Health and Human Service said 407 children were placed with sponsors in Alabama between the start of the year and July 7. The announcement did not indicate which counties have the most children.
The number of immigrant children in Alabama is less than in three neighboring states. The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported 760 in Tennessee, 1,154 in Georgia and 3,181 in Florida. That’s out of more than 30,000 placements nationwide.
And the Federal Emergency Management Agency notified Gov. Robert Bentley’s office late Wednesday afternoon that Maxwell is under consideration for housing immigrant children, communications director Jennifer Ardis said Thursday.
A spokesman for the secretary of defense, Lt. Col. Thomas Crosson, confirmed Maxwell is among the bases under consideration, and it is the only one from Alabama.
He said the Department of Health and Human Services has to assess whether the base could house children, and that hasn’t been scheduled yet. He said the federal agency is looking not only for space for housing, but for meals, medical care, recreation and counseling.
“Just because we offer them the facility does not mean they are going to use it,” he said.
Crosson said three bases are already being used: Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; Fort Still Army Base in Oklahoma; and Naval Base Ventura in Oxnard, California.
If Maxwell is approved, state officials don’t know how many children might be transported there or when they might arrive, Ardis said. She said the state has no role since Maxwell is a federal facility, but she said Bentley joined five other governors in sending a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressing concerns about immigrant children being housed in their states.
“We are concerned that there will be significant numbers who will end up using the public schools, social services and health systems largely funded by the states. More importantly, we are concerned that the failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border,” the letter said.
Joining Alabama’s governor in sending the letter were the governors of Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Utah.
Two members of Congress who represent the Montgomery area, Republicans Martha Roby and Mike Rogers, said Thursday they are opposed to the Air Force base being used for housing because that could compromise the base’s official mission.
Rogers said the Obama administration had looked earlier at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, but that also drew opposition.
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