Congresswoman Martha Roby

Representing the 2nd District of Alabama

Maxwell-Gunter will Not House Detained Immigrants

July 15, 2016
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

I can now confirm that no illegal immigrant minors will be sent to Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery or any other Alabama military facility this year.

You may recall that the Obama Administration in 2014 proposed using Maxwell-Gunter to house hundreds of minors who had been detained at the Mexican border as part of the influx of immigrants from Central America. I was adamantly opposed to this proposal and worked with my Alabama delegation colleagues to shut it down. However, we received word late last year that Maxwell-Gunter was again being considered as a location for housing detained immigrant minors while they await processing. 

I immediately contacted the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services (HHS) to outline my strong objections and explain why this proposal was a bad idea. An active military base like Maxwell-Gunter is no place to house hundreds of immigrant detainees. Our personnel at Maxwell-Gunter are engaged in serious military activities - training, education, and cyber warfare - many times in classified or sensitive settings. Their missions do not need to be distracted by a superfluous, intra-agency operation to house and secure hundreds of detained minors. I also met personally with Office of Refugee Resettlement leadership to show them why the specific Gunter Annex location under consideration was logistically unsuitable for this purpose. 

Fortunately, this week my office received official confirmation that Maxwell-Gunter was no longer being considered for housing detained immigrants. Additionally, two Naval airfields in Baldwin County were also removed from consideration. I appreciate the support and partnership of my Alabama congressional delegation colleagues who worked alongside me to fight this proposal. 

While I am pleased we have again shut down this ill-advised plan, the broader problem is not going away. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants attempt to illegally cross our Southern border every year and will continue to until our country gets serious about combatting illegal immigration.

First and foremost, we have to secure the border. We also need to have immigration policies that put America’s economic interests first and discourage people from entering the country illegally. Right now, I’m afraid we have the opposite.

Should there be another influx of minors at the border, authorities should first look to non-military facilities to keep them while they await deportation. More importantly, the Obama Administration should do more to discourage Central American minors from making the perilous journey in the first place. Allowing the detainees to stay in the United States is actually the least compassionate option because it invites even more children to endure the brutality of this organized trafficking scheme.

As your representative in Congress, I remain engaged on this important issue and will be sure to share any significant developments publicly. You can stay up to date on the latest information by visiting my Facebook page or www.Roby.House.gov.