From left are U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Commissioner Chris Elliott and Mayor Tony Kennon.
By John Mullen
June 25, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – There are a lot of similarities in the federal government’s plan to house illegal immigrants at a Navy airfield near Orange Beach to one floated by the Obama administration in 2016.
 
But there’s also a big difference in the Trump administration’s effort to house illegal immigrants on the same fields while they are awaiting processing through the legal system, Baldwin County Commissioner Chris Elliott said.
 
“There has not been any official notification,” Elliott said of the new effort. “It’s my understanding it’s some kind of leak Time got ahold of about the Navy doing this assessment. Hopefully, we can get ahead of it and push back.”
 
 
Last time Elliott and other officials received an email from the Department of Health and Human Services alerting them a study was underway. There was no forthcoming email in this new effort.
 
Another big difference is the type of immigrants the administration is looking to house in Baldwin County. 
 
“Last time we were talking about 2,000 kids,” Elliott said. “Now we’re talking about 25,000 criminals. That’s a big difference. I can promise you the sheriff thinks so.”
 
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon says he doesn’t want the camp just north of his city across Wolf Bay.
 
“We have been in touch with our federally elected officials and have asked that they take the lead in stopping this nonsense,” Kennon said. “We will do whatever they need us to do here on a local level to do the same.”  
 
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, is already lining up against the plan and citing the dangers inherent in the sites even though it is still in its earliest stages.
 
“We have successfully fought efforts to house illegal immigrants in Baldwin County before, and we will do the same again because the proposal makes no sense,” Byrne said. “Housing anyone in tents on the Gulf Coast during the heat of summer and the heart of hurricane season would be inhumane and a major mistake. I am committed to working with our local officials to fight back against this misguided idea.”
 
Elliott, as he and other officials did in 2016, points out the logistical problems with the undeveloped properties.
 
“The reasons that this is not a good site are the same as they were two years ago,” Elliott said. “It’s an infrastructure issue. There’s no water, there’s no sewer, there’s no electricity at these sites. There are no buildings at these sites with the exception of some derelict little sheds and things like that. 
 
“There’s nothing there. It doesn’t make any sense, not to mention putting a tent city with 25,000 additional people in it in a hurricane evacuation zone. It’s just nuts. Especially the one in Josephine which is half a mile from the water if that.”
 
The Silverhill tent city would also take up space Elliott says the county uses during tropical emergencies.
 
“We have a contract with the Navy currently, that is our staging area for our recovery operations for a hurricane when we have power companies coming in when we have relief supplies coming in to help Baldwin County’s recovery after a storm,” Elliott said.
 
For his part, he’ll be dusting off the same letters he sent in protest the last time a plan was floated to bring immigrants to Baldwin County airfields.
 
“We had letters to the Homeland Security and HHS last time and I’m just changing the name of the appointee on the top of it and we’re sending the same letter,” he said. “It’s the same issues that made it undesirable the last time.”
 
The sites are at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach and Navy Outlying field Silverhill in Silverhill.
 
The Orange Beach location is located directly north of the Caswell and Bear Point areas of the town on the north side of Bay La Launch closer to Josephine.
 
According to the website Abandoned and Little Known Airfields: Alabama, about Wolf field says: This airfield was built as one of the large number of WW2-era satellite airfields used by NAS Pensacola. The date of construction of Wolf is unknown, but it was built prior to 1945. The earliest reference to the field which has been located was on the 1945 Mobile Sectional Chart.
 
The website gives the exact description of the Silverhill airfield. It is located south of County Road 54 and north of Alabama 104 and west of River Road South to the west of the town center.