Tennessee lawmakers seek answers after report of migrant children being flown to Chattanooga


Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and Sen. Bill Hagerty

WASHINGTON (WJHL) — Three Tennessee lawmakers are looking for answers following a report that planes carrying migrant children have recently landed in Chattanooga.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann sent a letter to the secretaries of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security seeking information on the management of unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody and the facilities being used to house them.

The letter came after Chattanooga’s WRCB reported that at least four planes carrying migrant children arrived at the Wilson Air Center in the past week. According to the report, the children were loaded onto buses and transported to other cities during the overnight hours.

Dear Secretary Becerra and Secretary Mayorkas:

We write to seek information on the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) management of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in federal custody and the facilities used to house them. We are particularly concerned about recent reports regarding the use of Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a central location for resettling UACs in the United States.

There are media reports that, within the last week, at least four planes carrying UACs landed at Wilson Air Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before swiftly boarding the children onto buses and transporting them to multiple cities across the southeastern United States for apparent resettlement, with zero transparency regarding what was happening. For months, reports have detailed how thousands of children are being housed in neglectful conditions at mass shelters operated by HHS under a veil of secrecy. We are deeply troubled by the lack of transparency and accountability regarding the conditions that HHS is subjecting these children to.

Several governors, including Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee, have written to President Biden expressing alarm over how the federal government has circumvented state authorities by placing UACs in their states’ facilities with little transparency, consent, or coordination.

These reports raise many questions that need to be answered, but the basic question that must be answered is whether the federal government is using Tennessee as a central location for resettling UACs in the United States. The citizens of Tennessee are entitled to more information. After all, their schools, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies will bear the burden of this reported resettlement, which is the product of an ongoing border crisis that is making every town a border town.

In 2014, Congress became aware of a similar matter regarding a facility operated by HHS that housed over a thousand children. Attempts at oversight of how HHS was managing care for children were limited by undue visiting restrictions and heightened secrecy. Sadly, it appears this pattern is repeating itself.

In light of these recent reports and HHS’s past secrecy, we ask that you schedule a briefing with us to discuss the Department’s management of UACs, including any operations in Chattanooga and Tennessee at large.

“Tennesseans deserve answers from the Biden administration and they deserve them now,” Hagerty said in a statement. “I have warned for months that President Biden’s failure at the border would result in a systematic resettling of migrants in our communities, burdening our schools, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies, and bringing an increase in drug trafficking and human smuggling. A new reality is happening in our country—every town is now a border town.”

Blackburn accused the president of secretly transporting migrant children.

“Joe Biden has created a crisis at the southern border. Biden’s actions and rhetoric have caused thousands of illegal aliens to flood our borders and overwhelm our Border Patrol agents, who have been able to apprehend just half a million of them,” Blackburn said. “Now his administration is secretly transporting the migrants the Border Patrol did catch to communities throughout the United States. They are doing this in the dead of night without the knowledge or permission of the communities involved. Joe Biden has put these children at risk. He is putting Tennesseans at risk. The American people deserve the truth now.”

In a tweet, Gov. Bill Lee commended Blackburn and Hagerty for “calling this out.”

Earlier this month, Lee and other Republican governors sent a letter to the Biden administration calling for more action at the southern border

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