U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is defending secrecy by the Obama administration involving undocumented child immigrants sent to Iowa, saying he fears disclosure of information would lead to anti-immigration protests at the homes of families sheltering the young people.
“These kids need to be protected, housed and kept safe. They don’t need to be made public objects,” Harkin told Iowa reporters Thursday in a weekly telephone conference call.
Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, noted a recent incident in California where angry protesters turned away three Homeland Security buses transporting undocumented immigrants from Texas to be processed in Murrieta. The buses were redirected to Border Patrol stations in the San Diego area.
President Barack Obama’s administration has been criticized by Gov. Terry Branstad and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Iowa Republicans, for a lack of information about children from Central America who are being sent to Iowa after being detained by the U.S. Border Patrol. Officials from the U.S. Department of Human Services this week confirmed that at least 139 unaccompanied immigrant children have arrived in Iowa since Jan. 1, but no other details have been provided.
More than 57,000 children have crossed the Mexican border into the United States since Oct. 1, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Officials say they are fleeing gang violence and extreme poverty. Grassley says the nation’s governors have a right to know if the unaccompanied children are being sent to their states, and he is co-sponsoring federal legislation that would require advance notification.
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