Three members of Tennessee’s Republican congressional delegation demanded Thursday that the Biden administration turn over information on its migrant-resettlement program for unaccompanied minors in their state, raising safety and security concerns about the federal plan to funnel the children into U.S. communities.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Republican lawmakers said they already have requested information on the program twice, but grew increasingly alarmed over recent disclosures about the Chattanooga migrant facility.
A 16-year-old boy went missing on June 14 from an HHS-contracted facility in Chattanooga, the same property under local, state and federal investigation for allegations of child abuse after state authorities interviewed six children in an unannounced May 31 visit prompted by a hotline tip.
“[W]e expect to receive more information from you on these matters right away,” the lawmakers said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
The letter was signed by Sens. Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, who recently sponsored the Migrant Resettlement Transparency Act to require the federal government to consult with governors and mayors before undergoing resettlement efforts in their jurisdictions.
“The practice of pushing UACs [unaccompanied children] into the interior of the U.S. and often releasing them to sponsors — and then neglecting to track these minors’ whereabouts or compliance with immigration requirements — raises numerous questions regarding the well-being of these minors, as well as the impact on American communities,” the letter states.
From March 23 to May 26, the Department of Health and Human Services discharged to U.S. sponsors 18,342 UACs, but after being handed over to sponsors, “it is unclear what, if anything, the Department does to ensure their safety, security and compliance with their immigration obligations,” the letter states.
“It seems clear that HHS, given its silence, is ignoring the impact on schools, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies that will bear the burden of this massive resettlement,” the letter states.
East Tennessee has become a “central location for resettling UACs in the United States,” the Republican lawmakers said, but little is known about the process for releasing them to sponsors, raising questions about whether the children are simply being turned over to the cartels or gangs that brought them to the southern border.
Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Commissioner Jennifer Nichols told state legislators at a June 16 hearing that investigators found 62 children between the ages of 12-17 at the facility, the former Tennessee Temple dorms, which is being operated by the Baptiste Group under a federal contract.
One of the six youths interviewed “disclosed that he had witnessed an act that in our policy would substantiate and require that an investigation into that act take place,” said Ms. Nichols, according to WTVC-TV in Chattanooga.
The Republicans accused the Biden administration of being more interested in rapidly resettling migrants into the U.S. interior than securing the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Rather than securing the border, it appears that the Biden Administration‘s strategy for addressing the border crisis is to take as many steps as possible to simply accelerate processing of migrants into the interior of the United States,” they said. “Policies adopted by the Biden Administration have become the root cause for the collapse of our southern border and the influx of record numbers of illegal crossers and the flow of illicit and deadly drugs.”