NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The White House confirmed Tennessee is being used as a place to transport unaccompanied migrant children to family members or sponsors.
The news is drawing outrage from mostly Republican lawmakers in Tennessee, despite unaccompanied minors being released in higher amounts in the state under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
“Tennessee is a state that is right near and the middle of the country, and some kids have to travel through there to get to their destination,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The Biden Administraton’s goal is to connect children seeking asylum at the border with sponsors. They are using a place in Chattanooga to house and transport some of the children.
“Children being human trafficked across our border into this country and then dispersed across the border,” Governor Bill Lee said is unacceptable.
The White House said they’re following the law.
“We’ve been very clear that our objective is to treat these kids humanely; get them to safe homes; especially homes of loved ones and sponsored families,” Psaki said.
Matt Maniatis, a Nashville based immigration attorney, said nothing is ‘new’ about the process used for the unaccompanied minors.
“This is a program that’s been around for decades. It was the same program under the Trump administration,” Maniatis said.
He added, the unaccompanied minors shouldn’t be political pawns, and that the law protects them.
“The fact of the matter is these children have often traveled long distances by themselves, potentially subject to abuse and neglect along the way, and at the end of it, they’re just fleeing some kind of abuse or neglect from home,” Maniatis said. “The Federal government has an obligation to make sure that they’re in a safe environment; that they’re released to a family member or legal sponsor.”
Nashville Democratic Congressional candidate Odessa Kelly said Republicans are using child migrants to score political points.
“The other side use this to try to divide us,” she continued, “I would try to cautiously remind Tennessee, the working class people, we have issues that we need to deal with and this is not one of them.”
Governor Lee said again, “This is a policy of an open border that incentivize the human trafficking of children and it should absolutely be stopped.”
According to the department of Health and Human Services 717 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors for the 2021 fiscal year.
In 2019 under President Trump, 2,191 migrants were released in Tennessee.