Fleischmann on Migrant Children

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF)- Trouble on the U.S. Border has made its way to the Tennessee Valley.

Scenes of hope and despair can be seen on the U.S. Mexico border as unaccompanied children join migrants seeking refuge in the United States.

Today on a zoom call, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann told News 12 that some migrant children were flown into the Wilson Air Center and were bused to larger cities.

He was told that some may still be here in Chattanooga.

“We’ve had this situation happen before. We’ve demanded transparency. We’ve demanded honesty. We’ve demanded answers and we are just not getting them”, adds Congressman Fleischmann.

Fleischmann and Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty say that they were not notified that the children were coming here.

Congressman Fleischmann says, “In short, it’s an outrage. The people of Tennessee, the people of America and myself and other other elected leaders have been left in the dark about this.”

Immigration Attorney Terry Olsen of The Olsen Law Firm says that the lawmakers may not have been notified personally, but their offices should have received some kind of notification.

“So, it’s really kind of a notice issue. Yeah, maybe the head of CIS did not come up to Fleischmann and say ‘Hey, we are coming to your state. But, he was notified through his agent and then his officer in his office would make him aware or should make him aware”, adds Olsen.

Olsen says migrant children being taken in for refuge is not a new concept.

“This has been going on for 30 or forty years. It’s something that we’ve always done and as any first tier area of the world, as a nation, with the UN’s help and assistance, you will help any people that have been harmed.”

Fleischmann says that his main concern is costs for taxpayers.

“There is a federal court decision out there. That concerns me on the costs level, that does say that the Federal government will, once they place these children in these communities, that local communities will have to pay for their education and well-being. That is a sure costs to local tax payers.”

Fleischmann does not know haw many children were brought to Chattanooga.

He and Senators Blackburn and Hagerty wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking for transparency about the lack of communication from border officials.

Dear Secretary Becerra and Secretary Mayorkas:

We write to seek information on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) management of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal custody and the facilities used to house them.  We are particularly concerned about recent reports regarding the use of Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a central location for resettling UACs in the United States.

There are media reports that, within the last week, at least four planes carrying UACs landed at Wilson Air Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before swiftly boarding the children onto buses and transporting them to multiple cities across the southeastern United States for apparent resettlement, with zero transparency regarding what was happening.  For months, reports have detailed how thousands of children are being housed in neglectful conditions at mass shelters operated by HHS under a veil of secrecy. We are deeply troubled by the lack of transparency and accountability regarding the conditions that HHS is subjecting these children to.

 Several governors, including Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee, have written to President Biden expressing alarm over how the federal government has circumvented state authorities by placing UACs in their states’ facilities with little transparency, consent, or coordination.

 These reports raise many questions that need to be answered, but the basic question that must be answered is whether the federal government is using Tennessee as a central location for resettling UACs in the United States.  The citizens of Tennessee are entitled to more information.  After all, their schools, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies will bear the burden of this reported resettlement, which is the product of an ongoing border crisis that is making every town a border town. 

 In 2014, Congress became aware of a similar matter regarding a facility operated by HHS that housed over a thousand children. Attempts at oversight of how HHS was managing care for children were limited by undue visiting restrictions and heightened secrecy.  Sadly, it appears this pattern is repeating itself.

 In light of these recent reports and HHS’s past secrecy, we ask that you schedule a briefing with us to discuss the Department’s management of UACs, including any operations in Chattanooga and Tennessee at large.

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