Gov. Bill Lee and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday called for a hearing in Congress on the Biden administration’s relocation of unaccompanied children to the two states without knowledge of local leaders.
In a letter to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, the two called for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the crisis at the southern border and “the Biden Administration’s failure to provide notice and transparency in their movement of unaccompanied migrant children into states.”
In the letter, Lee cited media reports last month of flights into the Chattanooga airport in the early morning hours, after which children disembarked from charter flights and were transferred to buses. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged the charter flights into Chattanooga on May 21. Lee cited additional news reports of flights landing in Knoxville late at night.
In response to inquiries from the governor’s office, Lee wrote, federal liaisons confirmed eight unaccompanied children were placed into care in Chattanooga, and others on those flights were transferred to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and Virginia.
Flights are part of a program established in 2003 operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement to relocate unaccompanied children to reunite with families or transfer to group homes.
Lee and other Chattanooga officials say they were not notified of relocations into the state.
“The lack of transparency 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,” Lee and Reynolds wrote.
U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty voiced support of a Senate hearing.