Illegal immigrants need to stay out of Alabama

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

Our nation has a serious problem with illegal immigrants crossing our border every day.

Recently, the immigration issue made its way to Southwest Alabama when the Obama Administration announced they were considering a plan to house unaccompanied alien children (UACs) at two Navy airfields in Baldwin County. The airfields are located near Orange Beach and Silverhill.

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As soon as I heard this news, I was shocked. It made absolutely no sense. These airfields are bare-bone facilities. They have very little in the way of infrastructure, including no running water or sewage. Needless to say, it would be very expensive to construct inhabitable facilities at these airfields.

While the airfields are currently not active on a daily basis, they are still used at times by our Navy aviators for training. Last time I checked, we try to keep children away from airfields, not put them right in the middle of one.

I also had serious concerns about putting children in temporary housing so close to the Gulf Coast in the middle of hurricane season. In addition to tropical weather, anyone who has spent time in Southwest Alabama knows our area also faces serious threats from tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and flooding.

Another issue was the Zika virus. We already know the Gulf Coast is especially vulnerable to a potential outbreak of the virus, given our climate and the presence of the specific breed of mosquito in our area. Why would we put these children in area with so many obvious threats?

On top of all this, I worried about the strains this large influx of migrant children would have on our local infrastructure, like our police officers. They would have been responsible for enforcing law and order at the facility, and any incidents would have only put even more strain on our already crowded juvenile court system.

Given these concerns, I immediately went to work to make sure this proposal never became a reality.

I partnered with Congressman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) from the Pensacola area in sending a letter to the Obama Administration outlining our serious concerns with the proposal and the impact it could have on our local communities.

I didn’t stop there. I also introduced an amendment to the annual Department of Defense funding bill to block the Pentagon from spending any money to construct housing for migrant children at military facilities. My amendment was adopted to the bill by a vote of 223-198.

Our nation’s military facilities are simply not the place to house these children, and making upgrades or changes to military facilities for this purpose could significantly alter their intended use. This could negatively impact our military readiness and put the children in dangerous situations.

Thankfully, on July 14, my office learned the Baldwin County air fields will not be used to house migrant children. While I still don’t understand why they considered this outlandish idea to begin with, I was pleased to see our hard work opposing the plan pay off.

I want to be clear: this was a total team effort. My office worked with Senators Shelby and Sessions, members of the Baldwin County Commission, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack, other local elected officials and the entire Alabama Congressional delegation to defeat this proposal.

While the Baldwin County issue has been resolved, our nation still has a serious immigration issue that must be addressed. This issue will not go away until we get serious about enforcing the immigration laws already on the books and actually secure our borders.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.