The crisis at the border continues to escalate due to the Biden administration’s failure to secure the southern border and enforce our immigration laws. These failures have created challenges to state and local governments that are forced to deal with the ramifications of reckless policies. In response to the growing problems caused by the administration, 26 governors signed a letter in September requesting a meeting with President Biden. Unsurprisingly, President Biden never responded. Not waiting for the Biden administration to address the crisis, many states, like Tennessee, have acted.
Earlier this year, Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs), were being flown and bussed into Chattanooga by the federal government without any notice to Tennessee officials. Even worse, an employee of a Chattanooga shelter for UACs made headlines when she was charged with sexual battery of a 17 year-old at the facility. Since then, a Tennessee court has suspended the shelter from operating until it can prove that their employees are certified to be supervising children.
The Joint Committee on Refugee Issues was created in May by Tennessee Senate Speaker Randy McNally (R-Oak Ridge) and House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) to address the crisis in Tennessee caused by the Biden administration. The committee members were all from the Republican majority, five from the House of Representatives and five from the Senate. It was charged with determining the number of migrant children being permanently relocated to Tennessee by the federal government; the number of migrant children being flown into Tennessee and subsequently relocated to other states by the federal government; how transparency regarding the relocation of UACs to Tennessee could be increased; and the impact of the federal government’s relocation program on Tennesseans.
A major concern to legislators in Tennessee was the fact that these UACs were brought into the state and authorities did not know who they were or if they were truly unaccompanied. The lack of this crucial information not only puts the children and local communities at risk, but also strains local resources. Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), a member of the committee, said there were at least 450 UACs in Tennessee.
As Tennessee investigates further, the Biden administration continues to send an unknown number of UACs around the United States without notifying state and local authorities. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) similarly complained that “The federal government’s failure to provide advance notification to states places an undue burden on our law enforcement partners to determine whether these types of flights constitute a criminal act of human trafficking or the federally-sponsored transport of vulnerable children.”
Governor Reynolds and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) wrote to Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) asking the U.S. Senate to hold hearings on the crisis at the Southern border and the UACs. The pressure levied by the governors spurred Congressman Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) to introduce the No-Fly for Illegals Act. This bill would ban the use of federal funds to fly illegal aliens around the country unless they are for deportation purposes or in case of an emergency. “Illegal immigrants are being flown to, and relocated across, our once secure nation with no regard to our nation’s laws or family’s safety,” said Cawthorn.
Tennessee’s actions have demonstrated there are actions states can take to pressure the administration to address the border crisis, and to mitigate the impact on local communities. It is evident that without resistance from local governments and the public, the Biden administration will not do its job to enforce our immigration laws so it will be up to the states to step up.