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Reynolds and Grassley calling for Senate hearing following incidents of unaccompanied migrant children in Iowa

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 4:30 PM CDT
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - Governor Kim Reynolds has joined Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s call to open a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into the southern U.S. border following incidents of unaccompanied migrant children being transported to Iowa without any advanced notice to state and local law enforcement.

Reynolds is joining Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, whose state has also seen similar incidents, according to a statement from Reynolds.

“We are writing to support your continued calls for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold an oversight hearing regarding the current border crisis,” Reynolds wrote in their letter to Grassley on Thursday. “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.”

Timeline of events in Iowa outlined in the letter:

  • On May 2nd, the State of Iowa became aware of an April 22nd flight of unaccompanied minor children landing overnight at the Des Moines International Airport.
  • On May 6th, the State of Iowa reached out to both DHS and HHS after reviewing surveillance footage showing what appeared to be a plane.
  • On May 7th and May 10th, 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 10th – and again in writing on May 11th – the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told the State of Iowa that it was not a DHS ICE flight.
  • On May 14th, Governor Reynolds reached out to Senator Grassley’s office.
  • On May 17th, ICE told Senator Grassley’s staff it was not involved in the flight.
  • On May 21st, 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,” Reynolds wrote in the letter to 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.”

See Reynolds’ letter below:

The Iowa City Catholic Workers have sponsored multiple families and unaccompanied minors out of border detention this year and helped activists document the secret April 22nd flight of children to Iowa soon after it arrived at the Des Moines airport.

Catholic Worker Dr. Emily Sinnwell released the following statement on behalf of the faith community in response to Reynolds’ announcement on Thursday:

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.

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.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn also released the following statement in response to Reynolds’ letter to Grassley:

Governor Reynolds does not care about the well-being of migrant children brought into Iowa, she said so herself back in April.

She’s only focused on dividing and distracting Iowans from her own record and using a fake crisis to further attacks on our friends and neighbors.

Iowa Democrats want to solve the real problems within our own state borders, not play partisan politics that only seek to divide us further.

In April, Reynolds told WHO radio that 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.”

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