Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said Thursday he won't seek removal of immigrant children who have been relocated to Iowa. But he reiterated his complaint that the Obama administration has not been transparent about them.
The governor, who was in Davenport, already has said he did not want the kids to be brought to the state. And he complained about not being informed before they were brought here. He also said that he would seek more information about the kids who have been brought here.
Thursday afternoon, his office released a letter to President Barack Obama in which he said that "the clandestine placement of unaccompanied alien children into communities across the country erodes public trust and puts a strain on already scarce State and Federal resources."
The minors, who are mostly coming from the violence-torn countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have crossed the southern border in large numbers since last year, and the federal government has struggled with what to do with them.
A 2008 anti-trafficking law requires that unaccompanied minors from Central America be given a court hearing.
Earlier this week, the federal government confirmed that some of the minors had been relocated to Iowa since Jan. 1, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley's office said that, as of last week, the number was at least 139 children.
The letter, from Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, said that federal officials won't say how many remain and that the state will be notified only in the event of placement at facilities.
"We don't know their health circumstances, their age or who they're placed with — all of those things — and I believe the state and the department of human services deserves to know those things," Branstad said in Davenport.
Asked whether he would seek that they be removed, the governor said: "No, I'm going to just ask to know what's going on. We are all empathetic with these kids, and we want to make sure that they're treated fairly and that they're not abused."
He said he does support moves to expedite court proceedings to determine whether they should be sent home.
The governor drew criticism earlier this month when he said that he didn't want to see the minors brought to Iowa and that the federal government has failed to secure the border.
Branstad, who is up for re-election this year, has been criticized by state Sen. Jack Hatch, his Democratic opponent, on the issue. Hatch has called the children refugees, given the violence they face in their home countries, and he has called on the governor to join him in a "coalition of mercy" to offer humanitarian aid.
Asked about that, the governor said Thursday this shouldn't be a political matter.
"I think it ought to be handled by the people at the federal level, who have the responsibility for immigration," he said.