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Byrne, Zeigler, GOP congressional delegation oppose Baldwin immigrant detention sites

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, led a group of colleagues from Alabama and Florida in sending a letter to urge the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to halt efforts to house illegal immigrants at two outlying Navy airfields in south Baldwin County, Alabama.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler also sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

In a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, the Members of Congress outlined why the lack of infrastructure at the airfields and the unique coastal environment make the sites completely unacceptable for housing.

The letter was signed 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.

Congressman Byrne said: “I appreciate my Alabama and Florida colleagues joining me to express our serious concerns about any proposal to house illegal immigrants in Baldwin County. I am hopeful our concerns will be taken seriously and this flawed idea will be taken off the table, just like it was back in 2016.”

The Trump Administration plans to build sprawling tent cities at two little-used Navy properties along the Alabama Gulf Coast. The camps will house undocumented immigrants who have been detained and are awaiting legal action. Many are claiming asylum and are awaiting for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to process their application.

“The area is in or near Alabama’s booming tourist industry and highest revenue-generating area,” Zeigler said. “Tourism and revenues would be adversely affected by these sites. Optional areas are available that are isolated and are not vital to tourism and revenue generation. Security is a continuous problem with a sprawling tent city in a residential area. Escapees can commit crimes in the nearby neighborhoods. Isolated areas are available that would not have this problem.”

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“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,” the GOP congressional delegation wrote. 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.”

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DHS and DOD prepared a similar plan during the Barack H. Obama (D) Administration. The Obama Administration never implemented their plan, which was opposed by then Governor Robert Bentley (R).

“These locations are undeveloped military airfields,” the GOP Congress member continued. “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.”

Zeigler said the plan is “terribly flawed.” “This area is a hurricane zone. A tent city in a hurricane zone is dangerous for the detainees and the staff. It would be difficult and costly to quickly evacuate the detainees when a hurricane heads our way, which happens frequently. This site is totally inappropriate for the intended purpose. The area has high temperatures and humidity. There will be no air conditioning in a tent city. Other geographical areas are available without the heat and humidity. The site selection authority needs to be fired.”

The Alabama GOP congressional delegation wrote, “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.”

Zeigler is a resident of nearby Mobile County, Alabama, which along with Baldwin County is on the Alabama coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Byrne lives in Baldwin County.

 

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