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Iowa Watchdog

Federal officials won’t answer questions about immigrant children in Iowa

7/25/2014

DES MOINES, Iowa — An irked Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, are still waiting to learn the whereabouts of 139 immigrant children placed without notice by federal immigration officials somewhere in the state.

On Tuesday, top state officials learned of the number of minors from reporters asking Branstad’s and Grassley’s offices for details of their placement. They have so far learned nothing else.

WHERE ARE THE KIDS? The federal government has sent at least 139 minors who entered to country illegal to Iowa without telling state officials. Now they won’t say where the minors are or who is taking care of them.

WHERE ARE THE KIDS? The federal government has sent at least 139 minors who entered to country illegal to Iowa without telling state officials. Now they won’t say where the minors are or who is taking care of them.

“The federal government didn’t notify the state of the placements until we attempted to confirm the number from the press inquiry,” Branstad’s spokesman, Jimmy Centers, told Iowa Watchdog. “We’ve asked for further clarification from the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House, but have not received any response.”

Unaccompanied minors entering the United States illegally and picked up by the border patrol are turned over to HHS, which attempts to place them with relatives already in the country or sponsors until an immigration court hears their case, a process that usually takes years.

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“Senator Grassley has asked several times whom the federal government is placing these young people in the care of, but has yet to receive answers,” Grassley’s spokeswoman, Beth Levy, told Iowa Watchdog.

“The Obama administration has not been transparent about the sponsors with whom they are placing these unaccompanied alien minors. A sponsor could be a relative or some other person who has been designated as a guardian. There doesn’t appear to be any background checks or questions asked of these sponsors,” Levy said.

Grassley wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again. He is sponsoring a bill that would require the federal government to inform governors at least 48 hours prior to placing unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally in their states.

Contact Paul Brennan at pbrennan@watchdog.org. This story originally appeared on Watchdog.org.

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