June 4 – Finally, someone said exactly the right thing about Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s shameful and cruel attack on vulnerable migrant children caught in the middle of a senseless GOP feeding frenzy.
State Representative Yusuf Hakeem D-Chattanooga criticized a Republican-led push to study the journey of unaccompanied migrant children through Tennessee – and in particular the decision to bar Democrats from sitting on a committee special legislative study – calling it “an extreme partisan giving red meat to their base.”
Further, he said the attacks and rhetoric from Lee and GOP lawmakers do not represent the “goodness” of Tennessee. “Putting a vulnerable group of people in your sights for political reasons is unacceptable.… I think it is heartless and lacks the Christian ideals that members of this group profess.”
Two Chattanooga-area state senators are on the panel – Bo Watson and Todd Gardenhire – both Republicans. Gardenhire asked to be part of the committee, and he also criticized the rhetoric of other state politicians about children.
“We have to separate the rhetoric from the facts. We have to separate the issue of the border fiasco and how these people got to our border from the byproduct of children in US government custody,” Gardenhire wrote this week in a column opinion for the Free Press editorial page of this newspaper.
The legislative panel – dubbed the Study Committee on Refugee Issues – was boosted by the WRCB’s first reports of unaccompanied minors brought to Chattanooga Airport “under cover of darkness.” Its members are to consider the number of unaccompanied minors and refugee children brought into the state for temporary shelter – including to a facility in the Highland Park neighborhood of Chattanooga – or before their relocation to other states. We already know that the numbers have been and will continue to be lower under the Biden administration than under the Trump administration.
The committee will also look at the financial effect and other factors of bringing the kids to Tennessee, according to a letter from Speaker of the House Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally. It doesn’t matter whether housing, transportation, education and medical care are funded by the federal government.
The study panel and all the rhetoric, except that of Gardenhire, is – as Hakeem aptly called it – “red meat at its core.”
Consider the rhetoric: “When the federal government abdicates its responsibility to control our borders, states must step in. Out of ineffectiveness, inattention and incompetence, the Biden administration allowed our borders to be crossed,” McNally said in a statement.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee escalated the alarm, accusing the Biden administration of not being transparent and accusing the federal government of facilitating human trafficking by moving unaccompanied migrant children across the county for placement with an approved sponsor.
“States don’t know when these unaccompanied minors are brought into the states, and that’s the biggest challenge for us,” Lee said this week during a visit to a Beretta USA factory in Gallatin, Tennessee, to a signing ceremony for a gun rights bill. “We are very concerned about these children and the trafficking that will continue if we do not secure the border and if the federal government does not provide transparency around these children, and that is what we are looking for.”
The governor presented a similar message last week at the Republican Governors Association conference in Nashville. And speaking to Fox News at Sean Hannity, Lee said the Biden administration ignores the will of the people. Can we get more “red meat” than this?
The reality is that the governor has not been transparent – especially after the two Republican US senators from Tennessee, Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn, appeared before him with a letter to the Biden administration shouting about the ” illegal aliens ”,“ human trafficking ”“ zero transparency ”.
As we have repeatedly reported, the Lee administration authorized and approved the Chattanooga refuge in May 2020 when Donald Trump was president and again in February 2021 after an on-site inspection.
The most recent license, a copy of which was obtained by The Times Free Press, was signed by Jennifer Nichols, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, who Lee appointed to the post in January 2019.
During the application process, the state received a copy of the federal contract between Groupe Baptiste and the Department of Health and Social Services, according to documents provided by the state.
“This contract aims to provide housing, personal care, supervision and follow-up to a maximum of 100 unaccompanied minor children”, indicates the application of the charter. “This facility will provide short-term care for children, ideally up to 30 days, until they are reunited with a sponsoring home or appear at an immigration hearing where other arrangements are made. ordered. “
Lee could have made peace, offered a few thanks and returned in part. But he did not do it. Instead, it continues to increase the temperature.
“Transparency was clearly different [under Trump]”He told the gun factory.” And the problem is different because of the lack of accountability and the lack of understanding where these children are coming from and where they are going. “
When asked about additional information available under Trump, neither the governor nor his office responded, nor provided any documentation on the additional transparency of the Trump administration.
Governor Lee, this is inexcusable and embarrassing. You must apologize to the shelter, the kids, and the whole state.