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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds stepped up her criticism Friday of Biden administration officials’ lack of transparency for flying 19 refugee children into the state to be transported to sponsor families without notifying her or other Iowa officials.
The governor — speaking to a “People’s Press Conference” talk radio show hosted by former GOP state legislator Jeff Angelo — said she was upset and dismayed that the federal government on multiple occasions denied starting May 7 that the flight was a federal refugee settlement program.
But on May 21, it confirmed that 19 refugee children were flown in April to Des Moines and transported to sponsor families, despite Reynolds’ previous rejection of a federal request that immigrant children be housed in Iowa.
"It’s unconscionable," said Reynolds, who has joined other Republicans in asking the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a public hearing about the movement of unaccompanied migrant children.
"It’s just not right. We need to get to the bottom of it. They need to be held accountable, especially when you think about the policies that are coming out of this administration — what is happening at the border, the crisis, the largest surge of illegal crossings in 20 years and the largest number of unaccompanied minors in history," Reynolds told the radio audience.
"I think it kind of demonstrates the level at which they are willing to go to accomplish what the ultimate goal is, and that is not to resolve this crisis at the border but to continue to ignore it and to continue to see illegal immigrants cross into this country," she added.
In a news release issued Thursday, Reynolds’ office laid out a timeline of the flight that brought refugee children to Iowa. According to the governor’s office, on May 2 the state became aware of an April 22 flight that landed in Des Moines and carried “unaccompanied minor children.” After reviewing surveillance footage, the state May 6 reached out to multiple federal agencies.
Federal agencies on May 7, May 10, and May 11 told the state the flight was not a federal immigration flight. On May 17, a federal immigration agency told staff at U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office it was not involved in the flight.
On May 21, the federal Health and Human Services’ Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Refugee Resettlement confirmed to Grassley’s office that the April 22 flight was in fact one of its flights. The agency confirmed 19 children were flown from Long Beach, Calif., to Des Moines. Two buses transported the children to various locations to join their sponsors.
"We weren’t aware of anything that was happening," Reynolds said Friday, telling the radio audience she believed "potentially" two of the children stayed in Iowa but the rest were moved "outside of the state — I believe to four different states," she said.
"The No. 1 priority of the governor is to protect the health and safety of Iowans, and the fact that this is taking place in the middle of the night I think raises suspicions. Why are they doing it in the middle of the night? Why are they not being transparent with governors?" Reynolds asked. "It only drives the mistrust. Absolutely no transparency, no coordination and it’s just not acceptable."
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn issued a statement accusing Reynolds of “using a fake crisis” as a partisan play to divide and distract Iowans.
But Kollin Crompton, communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa, called that reaction an effort by Iowa Democrats to “follow the Biden’s administration’s playbook of putting their heads in the sand and hoping it all goes away.”
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