Emotions ran high Saturday as opponents of Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to house undocumented immigrant children in Massachusetts rallied outside the State House.
Protesters and politicians lingering after the rally expressed their anger over the plan to bring these children into a state that they believe is ill-equipped to support its own children, homeless people, and veterans.
“The state can’t take care of the children in its own care, yet these immigrants are coming in and skipping the line,” said Mark Fisher, a Tea Party-backed gubernatorial candidate seeking the Republican nomination.
Many in attendance — a considerable number of them Fisher’s supporters — echoed this sentiment.
“I just believe this state is giving away its money — our money. Money that we don’t have,” said Dennis Clancy, 63.
The protest, dubbed a Stop the Invasion Rally, was organized by local conservative talk-radio host Jeffrey T. Kuhner, who could not be reached for comment after the event.
The issue has flared nationally in recent weeks as children fleeing poverty and gang violence in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador have flooded across the US-Mexico border.
‘The state can’t take care of the children in its own care, yet these immigrants are coming in and skipping the line.’
In response to federal requests for assistance, Patrick has proposed housing the children at either Camp Edwards, a defunct military base in Bourne, or Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee.
In an emotional July 18 speech, the governor pledged to house up to 1,000 children for no more than four months.
Local officials have opposed the proposal. A Boston Globe poll found Bay Staters are split on the issue, with 50 percent in favor of the plan and 43 percent opposed — a difference within the margin of error.
Protesters said they were skeptical of Patrick’s promise that Massachusetts would host these children only temporarily.
“It just doesn’t stop,” said Patrick Humphries, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party. “This isn’t temporary.”
Fisher accused Patrick of lying about the time frame of his plan.
“We think that’s a lie; it’s not temporary,” he said.
Patrick has said the federal government would run and pay for the shelters, but this promise did not matter to protesters who said neither the state nor the federal government should be paying for illegal immigrants.
Similarly, opponents of Patrick’s plan said it does not matter if the immigrants are being housed in Bourne or in Tucson: They do not want what them in the United States at all.
“It’s not a matter of ‘not in my backyard,’ it’s a matter of they shouldn’t be coming here to begin with,” said Humphries, a 53-year-old Bedford resident.
Gary DiPiero, a 47-year-old Saugus resident, who had a sign comparing Patrick to the infamous Roman emperor Nero, agreed.
“In fact, they should be housed right here,” he said, pointing at the State House behind him. “It’s empty, it’s air conditioned, it’s paid for by us. We’ll let them stay there.”