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Alexander Joins Demand that Obama Answer for Unaccompanied Minors in TN

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander; July 31, 2014:

“In addition to unilaterally changing his failed health care law, making recess appointments when the Senate isn’t in recess and appointing more czars than the Romanovs, President Obama now is threatening to change immigration laws without regard to constitutional limits on executive authority. Our Founders did not want a king, and the American people do not want a president who acts like one.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2014 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today joined a letter, led by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) and signed by all Republican members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, including Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), to President Obama insisting that the president answer questions raised by Gov. Bill Haslam and other state officials about the location of 760 unaccompanied children who were detained at the southern U.S. border but released to sponsors in Tennessee.

In addition, Alexander announced his support for two pieces of legislation to address the current border crisis. The first is legislation sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) that would speed up the process for sending home unaccompanied minors safely and humanely.

Second, he is cosponsoring an amendment offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), which is identical to legislation sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) in the House, that would stop funding for the president’s unilateral actions on immigration that exceed his constitutional authority.

On Tuesday, Alexander voted against President Obama’s proposal to address the crisis of unaccompanied children entering the United States, which Alexander said was not a “serious plan.”

The letter to the president states, “760 unaccompanied children apprehended by immigration authorities have been released to sponsors in Tennessee in 2014. We have been informed by Governor Bill Haslam that the State of Tennessee received no prior notice about the release of these children, nor has any attempt been made to collaborate with state and local governments.”

Alexander announced support for legislation sponsored in the House by Rogers that would speed up the process of sending the unaccompanied children home safely and humanely. Alexander said, “The House solution is a correct solution to this surge of unaccompanied children illegally crossing our border because it makes it possible for the United States to safely and humanely send the children home.”

Alexander is also cosponsoring an amendment proposed by Cruz and Blackburn that would prohibit funding for the President’s misguided “deferred action” executive order he issued in 2012 and restricts the president’s ability to give illegal aliens the ability to work in the United States. Alexander said, “In addition to unilaterally changing his failed health care law, making recess appointments when the Senate isn’t in recess and appointing more czars than the Romanovs, President Obama now is threatening to change immigration laws without regard to constitutional limits on executive authority. Our Founders did not want a king, and the American people do not want a president who acts like one.”

On Tuesday, Alexander voted against the Democrats’ Emergency Supplemental Appropriations legislation, which includes the president’s request for funding to address the recent influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border. For more information on Alexander’s vote and the plan he has proposed, click here.

The full text of the letter follows:

July 31, 2014
The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to you to express our concern about the growing crisis resulting from the influx of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) coming across the Southern border into the United States and to request information about your administration’s handling of the release of unaccompanied alien children to sponsors in the state of Tennessee.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), 760 unaccompanied children apprehended by immigration authorities have been released to sponsors in Tennessee in 2014. We have been informed by Governor Bill Haslam that the State of Tennessee received no prior notice about the release of these children, nor has any attempt been made to collaborate with state and local governments.

Given the considerable impact the release of unaccompanied alien children could have on federal, state, and local resources, we ask that you provide us with the following information:

1. What is the current number of unaccompanied alien children released to sponsors in Tennessee, by locality?
2. How many unaccompanied alien children are currently in ORR custody in Tennessee, by locality?
3. How was the determination made that these children would be placed in Tennessee?
4. For what conditions have these children been screened, vaccinated, or treated?
5. What requirements, including citizenship/residency status, must sponsors meet to host unaccompanied alien children?
6. What communication and appearances with ORR or DHS are required of sponsors to ensure the appropriate agency has knowledge of the location of all unaccompanied alien children throughout their immigration proceedings?
7. What percentage of unaccompanied alien children released to sponsors fully participate in immigration proceedings to the point that their status is verified or they are returned to their home countries?
8. How long do you estimate these children will be in the care of ORR or sponsors in Tennessee?

We believe the care and processing of the unaccompanied alien children in our country is of the utmost importance and must receive your direct and immediate attention. We hope that you will make strengthening our border and enforcing immigration laws a priority to reduce the incentives behind the dangerous practice of unaccompanied children traveling to the United States.

We thank you for taking our thoughts into consideration and look forward to your prompt response.

Sincerely,

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Press Releases

Haslam Sends Letter of Concern to Obama Over Unaccompanied Minors

Letter to U.S. President Barack Obama  from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; July 25, 2014:

The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama:

I write to you to express my concern about the number of unaccompanied immigrant children entering this country and the failure of the federal government to notify states in which children are being released.

On July 13, the nation’s governors met with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell during the annual National Governors Association meeting, which I hosted in Nashville this year. We spent a significant amount of time in that meeting discussing the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children. Although this is a complex issue and one that ultimately must be solved at the federal government level, governors are rightly concerned about the impact on states. We emphasized to
Secretary Burwell the need to be informed of any children being relocated to our states.

It is unacceptable that we became aware via a posting on the HHS website that 760 unaccompanied children have been released by the Office of Refugee Resettlement to sponsors in Tennessee without my administration’s knowledge. Not only was our state not informed prior to any of the children being brought here, I still have not been contacted and have no information about these individuals or their sponsors other than what was posted on the HHS website and subsequently reported by media.

Although solving the border crisis is a federal responsibility, this influx of immigrant children could have a significant impact on state and local governments. Therefore, we strongly believe that the state needs to be informed prior to any additional unaccompanied immigrant children being released in Tennessee, and we also need immediate answers to the following questions:

1. What was the process for determining that these children should be released to sponsors in Tennessee?
2. How did you locate and evaluate the fitness of their sponsors?
3. What medical screenings were the children given prior to their release in Tennessee?
4. What is the official immigration status of these children and their sponsors?
5. In what localities are these children now residing?
6. What are the legal requirements concerning the provision of services for these children while they are in the state?
7. What additional information is available on these children, such as age and health status?
8. How long will these children be in Tennessee?

Tennessee is a diverse and welcoming state, and we also understand that this is a complicated issue. However, an influx of unaccompanied immigrant children to the state, with little information being made available to the public or to state leaders, creates confusion and could be very problematic. The start of school is approaching for many districts across the state, and the federal government’s actions have caused great uncertainty around this issue.

I appreciate your attention to this matter and look forward to receiving a response to these urgent questions.

Sincerely,

Bill Haslam
Governor

cc: The Honorable Sylvia Burwell, Secretary, HHS