Tennessee Demands Answers About Arrival of 760 Border Kids

Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 09:17 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Less than two weeks after Gov. Bill Haslam and the state of Tennessee hosted the National Governors Association meeting, where governors explained to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell the importance about being notified about unaccompanied minors being relocated to their states, Haslam learned the Volunteer State had been the recipient of 760 children, Fox News reports.

In a tersely worded letter to President Barack Obama on Friday, Haslam took the commander in chief to task for the covert manner in which the administration is handling the relocation of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who have entered through the southwest border over the past several months.

"It is unacceptable that we became aware via a posting on the HHS website that 760 unaccompanied children have been released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to sponsors in Tennessee without my administration's knowledge," he wrote to Obama, copying Burwell, as well. "Not only was our state not informed prior to any of the children being brought here, I still have not been contacted and have no information about these individuals or their sponsors other than what was posted on the HHS website and subsequently reported by media."

Haslam wants to know the process used for determining that the children should be released to sponsors in Tennessee; how the administration located and evaluated the "fitness" of the sponsors; whether the children received medical screenings before being sent to Tennessee; the official immigration status of the children and their sponsors; and exactly where in Tennessee the children are living.

According to The New York Times, between Jan. 1 and July 7 of this year, 30,340 children have been released to sponsors — typically parents or other relatives.

Though the sponsors must undergo a criminal background check and promise to make sure the child appears for required immigration court appearances, the sponsor does not have to be a citizen or a legal resident.

"Officials have acknowledged that some sponsors may be living in the United States illegally," according to the Times.

The relocations have been overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement — which takes control of the children after they are turned over from Customs and Border Protection — even though the children are considered illegal immigrants, not refugees, writes Fox News' Todd Starnes.

All 50 states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, have received children, with the majority going to Texas (4,280), New York (3,347), Florida (3,181), and California (3,150), according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement's website.

Montana has received just one child, Vermont has received three, and North Dakota and the Virgin Islands have each received four children.

Ten percent of the unaccompanied minors have been placed in long-term shelters or foster care, the designated fallback if there is no qualified sponsor, according to the Times.

Haslam wrote that Tennessee is a "diverse and welcoming state," but that shipping 760 kids there without notifying state leaders "creates confusion and could be very problematic," he wrote. "The start of school is approaching for many districts across the state, and the federal government's actions have caused great uncertainty around this issue."


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