Immigration Border Encounters

Migrants arrive at an intake area after turning themselves in upon crossing the U.S.-Mexico border Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in La Joya, Texas.

(The Center Square) – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, offering support for oversight hearings on the Biden administration's handling of unaccompanied migrant children.

“We believe the hearing should also address the Biden Administration’s failure to provide notice and transparency in their movement of unaccompanied migrant children into states,” the letter read.

The letter references a May 20 overnight flight into the Chattanooga, Tennessee, airport where children reportedly were put on buses and sent to areas throughout the southeast.

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security reached out to federal counterparts and were told those federal agencies had no knowledge of the flights.

“The Biden Administration is secretly transporting migrants to communities throughout the United States, including in Tennessee, without the knowledge of or permission of the communities involved,” Tennessee U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn said. “President Biden’s failed immigration policies have turned every town into a border town. The Senate Judiciary Committee should immediately hold an oversight hearing on the crisis at our southern border. I applaud Governor Lee for his efforts to protect our state and the people who are being trafficked by the Mexican cartels.”

The letter said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services told the Tennessee commissioner of safety during a phone call that “flights should not be happening in the dead of night.” The letter also cites reports of similar middle-of-the-night flights into Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Tri-Cities area in northeast Tennessee.

According to the letter, HHS said during the call eight children on the Chattanooga flight were put into care in Tennessee, while others went to Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“We hope that our experiences help to shed light on the challenges faced by Governors across the country as we are forced to respond to the Biden Administration’s failed policies at the border,” the letter read.

Iowa had similar complaints, citing an April 22 flight into the Des Moines airport that HHS also confirmed with the state on May 21.

The governors asked for transparency on the flights and/or a way to confirm flights into their states involving unaccompanied migrant children in the future.

Tennessee recently announced that it was forming a 10-member Joint Study Committee on Refugee Issues in response to the flights. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported the Tennessee Department of Children's Services approved a license for a Chattanooga shelter to house unaccompanied migrant children in 2020. The shelter, operated by the Georgia-based Baptiste Group, began accepting children in November as part of federally funded shelters across the country.