US MP Mark Green, with support from some Republican lawmakers, says unaccompanied migrant children should no longer be in the care of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Office.
Green, who represents Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District, tabled a bill Monday that not only requires a governor’s approval before unaccompanied youths are transported from the border into that state, but also custody of those children from ORR, one of them Part of the Department of Health and Social Services, to the Department of Homeland Security.
His bill, called the Migrant Accountability Act, follows similar laws previously tabled by US Republican sensors Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn and Tennessee MP Chuck Fleischmann. The latter three have also sent letters to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra asking for more information about unaccompanied teenage migrants temporarily housed in Tennessee while awaiting sponsorships.
Despite recent Republican outrage over deporting unaccompanied minors to the state until they can be reunited with their families or placed in the care of sponsors, the practice has continued for years, including under President Donald Trump.
Governor Bill Lee has also joined criticism of President Joe Biden’s administration for not being transparent about when unaccompanied minors were brought through the state. Lee’s office has not explained how Trump officials informed them that young migrants were being brought to Tennessee.
Biden’s office has also declined to answer questions from The Tennessean about the trial.
With a Democratic majority in both houses, the laws tabled by the four Republicans in Tennessee are unlikely to advance in Congress.
“HHS is not a law enforcement agency – it’s a public health agency,” Green said Monday in a statement to The Tennessean on why the children should no longer be in the care of the Federal Refugee Agency. “The DHS is much better equipped to handle illegal immigration and send them back to their home countries. HHS does not have this ability. “
CONNECTED:In the dispute between Governor Bill Lee and the Biden administration over young migrants in Tennessee
Green, a doctor, added that HHS “should focus on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing future pandemics”.
His proposal would allow the children to stay in HHS facilities even though they are in the care of another federal agency. Tennessee has one of these facilities, according to the State Department of Children’s Services.
The state first approved La Casa De Sidney in Chattanooga as temporary accommodation for unaccompanied youth in federal custody in 2020. Earlier this month, local and federal officials began investigating a report on a teenager who said he saw a facility employee kiss another child.
The employee was fired, and state officials said they believed the reported abuse was an “isolated incident”.
Several members of the state legislature’s ad hoc Study Committee on Refugee Issues say they support Green’s proposal, including Republican Sens. Bo Watson of Hixson and Richard Briggs of Knoxville.
Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, also praised Green’s efforts in a statement.
Briggs and Watson have not been as open as some colleagues about recent news reports of unaccompanied minors coming through the state. However, Briggs on Monday described the practice as “unacceptable resettlement of illegal immigrants to Knoxville,” apparently referring to a plane that landed in the city with teenage migrants in May.
Watson condemned the “federal government’s failure to seek approval from Tennessee” before sending unaccompanied minors into the state.
There is no evidence the state consented under previous presidents before juveniles in HHS custody were transported to Tennessee.
The ad hoc Legislative Committee is due to meet a second time on July 13 to hear testimony from various individuals and groups involved in or with information about unaccompanied migrant children entering the state.
Reach Natalie Allison at nall[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @natalie_allison.
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