High-ranking elected officials in two states far north of the U.S.-Mexico border claimed that the Obama administration resettled hundreds of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children in their states without adequate notice — and has refused to disclose their exact locations.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman told the Wall Street Journal Saturday that 200 children were sent to his state without warning, adding that federal officials refused to disclose their names and locations, Fox News noted.
"Governors and mayors have the right to know when the federal government is transporting a large group of individuals, in this case illegal immigrants, into your state," Heineman, a Republican, told The Journal. "We need to know who they are, and so far, they are saying they're not going to give us that information."
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A White House official told the Journal that the Nebraska children were all being held with family and sponsors pending the outcome of immigration proceedings, and none were placed at a central facility. The official also told the paper that while some of the children arrived in the U.S. during the recent border surge, others crossed earlier in the year.
Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Will Jenkins told The Journal that HHS is required by law to keep the personal information of unaccompanied children confidential.
The Journal also reported Saturday that the White House has reached out to other states asking if they had any "big facilities" suitable for housing large numbers of unaccompanied children. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, said his state was one of those approached and told The Journal that the U.S. "should take a hard look at ... what we can do to be sure that as these kids get sent back, they're going back to places that are going to be safer."
Fox News also reported that 748 unaccompanied minors have been transferred from areas near the border to the Chicago area; 319 of them have been placed with family members or sponsors while they await immigration hearings. But the other 429 have been placed in facilities run by the Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit organization that receives grants from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., told Fox News Friday that he didn't know the exact locations of the facilities holding the children and offered that the White House didn't want the children's living conditions publicized.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill. speaks during an interview in his office Monday, June 9, 2014, in Chicago. (Image source: AP/M. Spencer Green)
"My worry is the administration doesn’t want people to know what the conditions of these places are or how these kids are being treated in detention," Kirk told Fox News. "Kids can sometimes to be pretty cruel to each other, they don’t want those stories to get out and they don’t want us to know what is going on in these detention facilities."
Federal law requires that illegal immigrant children from countries other than Canada and Mexico have their cases heard in immigration courts, which can take years to resolve. In the meantime, the minors are permitted to stay in the U.S.
"I can’t explain the incompetence of the Obama administration," Kirk said later. "This is a tremendous self-inflicted political wound ... This narrative, [that] this is Obama’s Katrina, [is] sticking really hard."
"This looks like permanent resettlement in the United States," he added.