Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made comparisons Wednesday between a crisis involving tens of thousands of illegal child immigrants apprehended at the southern U.S. border and the Holocaust.
“My inclination is to remember what happened when a ship full of Jewish children tried to come to the United States in 1939 and the United States turned them away, and many of them went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps,” Patrick told a group of reporters, the Boston Herald reports.
Patrick is a close friend and ally of President Obama and a former Clinton administration official.
President Obama has leaned on Patrick and other Democrats, including Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, to help provide housing for some of the estimated 57,000 unaccompanied children and 39,000 mothers with children — mostly from Central America — who have been apprehended at the southern U.S. border.
The Obama administration has had little luck finding municipalities and states that are willing to alleviate the surge. While several federal military bases are being used to house some unaccompanied children, more housing is needed.
Even Democrats, including Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy, have said that they are not willing to let the federal government use their states to house the immigrants.
“I think we are a bigger-hearted people than that as Americans, and certainly as residents of Massachusetts,” Patrick said Wednesday.
He said the White House asked, “What can you do if anything to help shelter these children while they’re being processed?”
While eager to help, Patrick said he is thinking through a practical solution.
According to the Herald, Patrick’s invocation of the Holocaust was likely a reference to the 1939 voyage of the St. Louis, an ocean liner carrying around 900 Jewish refugees that was turned away at ports in Canada, Cuba, and the U.S. Some of its passengers were killed in Nazi concentration camps.
“I think there’s a humanitarian reason to try to find a solution, try to find a way to help,” Patrick said Wednesday. “These are children, coming from incredibly dangerous places. And we have to do something sensible and humane while we process them for whatever the step is.”
Though crime in the Central American countries from which the illegal immigrants has traveled are among the highest in the world, none have claimed that citizens of those countries are being systematically targeted because of their race, ethnicity or religion, as was the case during the Holocaust.
Crime has either remained steady or fallen over the last few years in the immigrants’ countries of origin — mostly Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — leading many to believe that the crisis is the result of President Obama’s relaxed immigration laws.