A bad weekend for the president at the National Governors Association meeting as both Democrats and Republicans took pot shots at the administration for their inaction in the border crisis, as well as being livid about the secret dumping of illegal aliens in their home states without being notified.
“I found out in the last 48 hours that approximately 200 illegal individuals have been transported to Nebraska [by the federal government],” said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, in an interview. “The federal government is complicit in a secret operation to transfer illegal individuals to my state and they won’t tell us who they are.”
As thousands of unaccompanied minors have flocked to the United States in recent months, primarily from crime-wracked countries such as Guatemala and Honduras, the Obama administration has been sheltering them in federal facilities around the country while they await processing. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol estimates that more than 52,000 have crossed the border since Oct. 1, double the rate from a year earlier.
President Barack Obama has asked Congress for nearly $4 billion to deal with the crisis, and he’s warned parents in the migrants’ countries that their children may be sent back.
Obama’s approach has fractured Democrats’ political unity on the issue.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month said the U.S. must “send a clear message [that] just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay.”
But on Friday, calls for mass deportation drew a rebuke from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a potential rival to Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
“I believe it is contrary to everything we believe as a people to summarily send children back to death,” O’Malley said at a press conference here alongside other Democratic governors. He said pictures of the children in the United States, after traveling for miles along dangerous routes, look more like scenes from a “local Humane Society than a humane country.”
Meanwhile, Heineman, a fierce Obama critic, endorsed the president’s message.
“We’re going to treat any person, particularly children, humanely while they’re here,” he said. “They should humanely and expeditiously be returned to their country of origin to their family.”
He said he’d been on the phone for days with the federal Department of Health and Human Services trying to learn the identity of the children sent to Nebraska and where they’re being housed.
“So far, the secretary’s office is saying they’re not willing to provide us the names of the individuals that the federal government is transporting to my state,” he said.
It’s not just the governors who are being left out of the loop. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois complained on Friday that more than 400 illegal aliens had been dumped in the Chicagoland area. The government refused to tell him where they were and declined to run criminal background checks on them.
Oklahoma’s GOP Governor Mary Fallin mentioned the health of some of the 1,100 illegal aliens being housed at Fort Sill.
“We had one case of chicken pox. We’ve had many cases of scabies and lice,” Fallin said.
She added that there’s been no guidance about how long the children will be housed, whether they’re entitled to any taxpayer-funded benefits, from education to Medicaid to foster care. And she’s unsure whether they might be “let loose in the United States” once they turn 18.
“Those are all the questions and concerns that governors like myself,” she said. “They are children so we want to treat them very humanely, but we also have a lot of concerns.”
The government is moving these kids all over the country. Some of them seem to be ill with communicable diseases. But HHS and the Obama administration are refusing to say anything about these kids, and have not told the governors even how long they are expected to care for the children.
Not only is this an arrogant attitude on the part of the administration, it is also extremely dangerous. The government isn’t informing authorities into whose custody they are releasing these kids or even where they’re going. They could end up living a block from the state governor’s mansion and the chief executive would never know it.
Time for the governors to demand more transparency from the administration.