- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts won’t be hosting unaccompanied children crossing the nation’s southern border after all.

Federal Health and Human Services officials informed Gov. Deval Patrick on Tuesday that due to an easing of the number of unaccompanied children apprehended at the border, the Obama administration is no longer seeking facilities for temporary shelters for the unaccompanied minors.

Patrick had offered either Camp Edwards military base on Cape Cod and Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee as possible locations to house up to 1,000 of the children.

The offer met with stiff opposition from some local officials.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Director Emily Barson said that since the beginning of July, federal officials have begun to see some initial signs of progress along the southern border, although it’s too early to tell whether these trends will remain over time.

Barson also said number of unaccompanied children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection has fallen, while the number of children being releasing to appropriate sponsors as their immigration cases proceed has increased. Barson said her agency has also expanded capacity for children in standard shelters, which cost less than temporary shelters.

“As a result of this progress, HHS is no longer seeking facilities for temporary shelters for unaccompanied children at this time,” Barson said in letter to Patrick administration officials.

Barson cautioned that the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border is still too high and thousands are still in HHS custody.

Patrick said he has been deeply moved by what he called the outpouring of support for his offer and said “over 1600 of our neighbors reached out to express their support for children who are alone and thousands of miles from home.”

“Once again the people of Massachusetts have displayed great generosity and compassion. It appears that there is not a need for Massachusetts to serve these children at this time, but I am proud of our willingness to do so,” Patrick said in a written statement Tuesday.

Patrick aide Jesse Mermell added that “should the need for additional temporary shelter space arise in the future, the Patrick administration stands ready to continue conversations with the federal government about how the commonwealth may assist these children.”

Despite assurances from Patrick that the federal government would pick up the cost of the shelters and the children wouldn’t attend local schools, some municipal officials and residents said they opposed the plan.

Republican state Rep. Ryan Fattman had proposed a non-binding resolution last month that would have called for the state to reject any request from the Obama administration to take in the unaccompanied children from Central America. The House opted to refer the proposal to a legislative committee, effectively killing it.

“This resolution is to question Massachusetts’ role in an immigration crisis … and politely say ‘no thank you,’” the Sutton representative said on the House floor.

Although the shelter plans have been called off, federal authorities have said that 773 unaccompanied minors- the majority from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras - had already been discharged to family, friends or sponsors in Massachusetts as of June 30.