DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) -- The office of Governor Kim Reynolds released information on Thursday about unaccompanied migrant children being transported to Iowa without the knowledge of the state.
In April, Reynolds said she had rejected a federal request to accept migrant children into the state, saying the need to find homes for them "is the president's problem" and that the state doesn't have facilities to house them.
The Governor's Office says in a release it became aware on May 2 of an April 22 flight of unaccompanied minor children landing overnight in Des Moines. It was later learned that 19 children were flown from Long Beach, CA, to Des Moines for unification with their sponsors. The children were transported in two busses from the Des Moines International Airport to be unified with their sponsors.
Between May 7 and 10, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) told the state twice that the flight in question was not an HHS flight. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also told the state it was not an ICE flight, according to the release from Reynolds' office.
However, on May 21, the HHS confirmed to Senator Grassley’s office that the transportation was chartered by ORR.
Reynolds and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee are now joining Senator Chuck Grassley's call for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the crisis at the U.S. southern border.
“We are writing to support your continued calls for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold an oversight hearing regarding the current border crisis,” Reynolds and Lee wrote in their letter to Senator Grassley. “We believe this hearing should also address the Biden Administration’s failure to provide notice and transparency in their movement of unaccompanied migrant children into states.”
The governors expressed that a lack of communication and notice make it hard to differenciate between human trafficking and the government's transportation of children.
“These experiences sow seeds of mistrust in our communities, and work to intentionally subvert the will of the people for a secure border and a clear, lawful immigration process,” the governors wrote in their letter to Senator Grassley. “Additionally, the federal government’s failure to provide advance notification to states places an undue burden on our law enforcement partners to determine whether these types of flights constitute a criminal act of human trafficking or the federally-sponsored transport of vulnerable children.”
Iowa City Catholic Workers, an organization that assisted in sponsoring multiple families and unaccompanied minors out of border detention, released a statement acknowledging issues in the process but blame Reynolds and Grassley for making the situation worse.
“The unaccompanied minors we know who were recently reunited with family in Iowa came one at a time on commercial flights and were picked up at the airport by their sponsor. These secret flights of dozens of children put on buses don't fit the bill for a fast reunification with family.
“It is more likely they were flown here by private military contractors to ease overcrowded conditions at the border and then held at a secret location somewhere in the Midwest for weeks or months before reunification with their family was complete.Iowa City Catholic Workers
There's no question the sponsorship process for families is too complicated and takes too long. Families should not have to jump through hoops to free their children. But Governor Reynolds and Senator Grassley's refusal to help and be part of the solution is only making things worse. They blame everyone but themselves when they should take personal responsibility for helping unaccompanied minors reunite with their loved ones in Iowa.”
You can read Gov. Reynolds and Gov. Lee's letter to Sen. Grassley here:2021.06.10-IA-TN-Grassley-Letter