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Mass. steps up in child migrants crisis

Central American immigrants sat atop the so-called La Bestia (The Beast) cargo train, in an attempt to reach the Mexico-US border.ELIZABETH RUIZ/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

As the surge of Central American children arriving unaccompanied at the border grows by the day, federal authorities have been rushing to find appropriate housing to temporarily shelter a record number of detained minors — about 57,000 since last October. The Obama administration has been quietly but urgently reaching out to states for assistance. Governor Patrick got the call as well and expressed his desire for Massachusetts to host the immigrant children. In agreeing to help find appropriate locations for some of these children in Massachusetts, Patrick is not opening the floodgates; he is committing to hold a specified group of young people in humane conditions while they can be processed under US law.

The state would bear no financial commitment for offering to hold the minors, the governor said, since the federal government would pay for the assistance. Unfortunately, state and local politicians elsewhere in the country have been reluctant to accept these children even under those conditions. As a lame-duck governor, Patrick has nothing to gain or lose politically by taking a kinder stance. “These are children, coming from incredibly dangerous places,” he said. “And we have to do something sensible and humane while we process them for whatever the [next] step is.” The United States badly needs to reform its immigration laws. In the meantime, the health and safety of young people is still at stake.