DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee joined U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley’s call to open a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the crisis on the southern border. The call for action follows incidents of unaccompanied migrant children being transported into Iowa and Tennessee without any advanced notice or communication with state and local law enforcement.
Both governors denied Biden Administration requests to house migrant children in their states.
“We are writing to support your continued calls for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold an oversight hearing regarding the current border crisis,” the governors wrote in their letter to 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.”
Here is the timeline of events in Iowa outlined in the governors’ letter:
- On May 2, the State of Iowa became aware of an April 22 flight of unaccompanied minor children landing overnight at the Des Moines International Airport.
- On May 6, the State of Iowa reached out to both DHS and HHS after reviewing surveillance footage showing what appeared to be a plane.
- On May 7, and May 10, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) told State of Iowa officials that it was not an HHS flight.
- On May 10 – and again in writing on May 11 – the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told the State of Iowa that it was not a DHS ICE flight.
- On May 14, Governor Reynolds reached out to Senator Grassley’s office.
- On May 17, ICE told Senator Grassley’s staff it was not involved in the flight.
- On May 21, HHS ORR confirmed to Senator Grassley’s office that it was an ORR flight and ORR ground transportation. According to HHS, 19 children were flown from Long Beach, CA, to Des Moines, IA, for unification with their sponsors. Two buses were used to transport the children from the airport to various locations to be unified with their sponsors.
“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 also wrote. “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.”
U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, joined Reynolds calling for a hearing.
After seeing reports of the flight in early May from The Iowa Standard and WOI TV 5 (ABC), Axne wrote to both HHS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to demand additional information on the flight. Despite the repeated request, neither Axne nor her office received any information on the flight from HHS, and ICE denied operating any such flight.
“The lack of transparency and accountability from our federal immigration officials regarding the April 22 flight from Long Beach to Des Moines is totally unacceptable,” she said in a released statement on Thursday evening. “As a mom, I was disturbed to see reports of a flight transporting unaccompanied children, and more than a month ago I sought clarification from HHS and ICE – but received no confirmation of the flight like the one provided to Senator Grassley a few weeks ago.”
“As this new administration tries to rebuild trust and fix our broken immigration system, denying the existence of a taxpayer-funded flight carrying migrant children into our community will only undermine the integrity of that mission, and will unfortunately provide fodder to those who would use this episode only to feed the disinformation and conspiracies related to our current immigration policies,” Axne added. “I join Governor Reynolds in demanding further investigation and disclosure from HHS to determine why this flight was kept secret and why its existence was denied to both the public and to the public officials seeking to learn the whole truth.”
Read the letter from Reynolds and Lee below:2021.06.10 IA TN Grassley Letter
Read Axne’s letter below:05.07.21 Axne Letter to ICE and HHS-OCR