WASHINGTON — When Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman discovered that immigrant children were being sent to his district, he demanded during a congressional hearing that “the administration fully divulge exactly where these children are going.”
“There is a total lack of communication here. The taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are being spent. What the policy is — not just now, but in the long term? What are we going to do to address these unaccompanied alien children?” Wittman told D.C.-based radio station WMAL on Wednesday.
The congressman finds it “unbelievable that they would just go about and scatter these children across the country without telling anybody what they are doing, how they are doing it and what their long-term plan is.”
In Wittman’s congressional district, Prince William County Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart was the one to discover the children coming to the area, but it was not the federal government who told him.
It was an official from a Christian non-profit Youth for Tomorrow in Bristow, Va., who gave him the heads up that the federal government had contracted with the organization to house and care for the immigrant children.
Stewart wants to know how many more children the government plans to send his way.
“What really peeves us about this is that the federal government is doing this without informing us,” the Prince William County official told WMAL Radio.
Prince William County, Va. is not alone.
In the neighboring state of Maryland, word had spread last week in Carroll County that the Department of Health and Human Services officials were eyeing Westminster’s former Army Reserve facility as a location to house immigrant children.
Community leaders pushed back on the idea.
Rep. Andy Harris, whose district includes Carroll County, threatened to use his position in Congress to impact the purse strings of HHS if it went forward with the plan.
The congressman released this statement last Friday: “Should HHS attempt to proceed with housing them at this facility, Congressman Harris will use any and all resources at his disposal as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and in particular the subcommittee that oversees the HHS budget to stop this.”
Over the span of one weekend, the mounting pressure led the feds to retreat from the idea of using the facility.
Fox News reporter Ed Henry pressed White House press secretary Josh Earnest on why government officials in each state are “finding out in the last-minute” or not at all about undocumented immigrant children being relocated to their neighborhoods.
“The public does have a right to know what’s happening and that’s why the administration has been trying to communicate clearly with the public about the steps we are taking to address the problem at the border,” Earnest responded at Wednesday’s White House press briefing.
The White House spokesperson added a caveat: “At the same time, there are privacy rights that are included in the law that this administration is committed to enforcing and following.”
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman scoffed at the Obama administration’s secretive transporting of illegal children as a matter of protecting “the privacy” of these underage minors.
“We are talking potentially illegal individuals in this country and they are going to get ‘privacy’ protections that legal citizens don’t get?” the Nebraska governor said to Fox Business Network host Melissa Francis on Wednesday.
Heineman has been critical of the administration’s handling of the border crisis since he recently discovered over 200 illegal children were sent to his state without warning.
“It is about cooperation, transparency and my question is ‘what are they hiding?’ Why are they afraid to give us this information?” he inquired.
The governor has received no response from the federal government about his questions regarding the children and the strain on his state’s resources.
“Who are these illegal unaccompanied children? Who is their sponsor? Where are you sending them?” Heineman wants to know.
He continued: “We need to know all this information to protect our state and our citizens. … We will be responsible for educating these children. Who will pay for that?”
Mary Fallin, governor of Oklahoma, said she was “alerted through the media” about 600 unaccompanied minors arriving at Ft. Sill in her state.
“It was quite a shock to us. It’s a military installation that we’re taking these children to,” Gov. Fallin told Fox News on Wednesday.
One mayor in California welcomes the immigrants to his city.
“We’ve already talked to HHS. Many of their parents are here. Before you get partisan and tell me where you are on immigration, these are children. Let’s get them some place safe and secure. Let’s get them legal representation which is what this country has always stood for,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at a forum.
A mayor in Massachusetts said her town has become “overwhelmed” by illegal immigration and it has been a drain on the town’s resources.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in Lynn, Mass., said, “We have been aware of the unaccompanied children issue for quite a while but now it’s gotten to the point with our school system is overwhelmed. Our health department is overwhelmed. The city’s budget is being substantially altered.”
Massachusetts Sheriff Tom Hodgson described the nationwide immigrant influx best: “We’re all becoming border states now.”