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A U. S. Department of Health and Human Services operation to resettle in Tennessee hundreds of unaccompanied children apprehended by immigration officials has officials in the state demanding transparency from the Biden administration.
Chattanooga TV station WRCB reported Thursday at least four flights landed at Chattanooga’s Wilson Air Center in the middle of the night carrying unaccompanied children. Videos depicted children boarding buses at the airport that witnesses said were bound to destinations including Miami and Dallas, WRCB reported.
The flights are part of a program operated by HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to provide travel for unaccompanied children to reunite with families or transfer to group home settings.
According to the ORR, 10,418 unaccompanied children were in ORR care as of March 31 – mostly teenage males – up from 1,929 in October. During the month of March, ORR oversaw 6,527 discharges to individual sponsors across the country.
In response to inquiries by The Center Square about the flights into Chattanooga, ORR’s Office of Communications provided this statement:
“ORR’s mission is to safely care for unaccompanied children until they can be unified with a vetted sponsor, usually a parent or close relative. As part of the unification process, ORR is currently facilitating travel for the children in ORR’s custody to their sponsors to prevent any delays. Their parents and relatives are located across the United States, and ORR contractors use various transportation modes to unite unaccompanied children with their families, including air and ground transportation options, taking into account child safety and wellness, travel time, and cost-effectiveness.”
A total of 484 unaccompanied children apprehended by immigration officials have been released to sponsors in Tennessee during the first three months of this year, according to ORR, including 290 unaccompanied children released in Davidson County.
ORR has not released numbers of resettled minors since the end of March, but it’s likely to be a significant increase. During testimony before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee last week, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas highlighted the recent decrease in the number of minors in Customs and Border Protection custody.
children were in border patrol stations. Two days ago there were 455,” Mayorkas said.
HHS has carried out the unaccompanied children operation in Tennessee without the knowledge of local or state officials.
HHS did not make Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly aware of its operations in his city, according to a spokesperson. Chattanooga Police Department confirmed to The Center Square it did not have any information about the flights. A spokesperson for the Chattanooga Wilson Air Center said the airport did not have any details about the incoming flights.
“We do not have specific information regarding the circumstances of any flights, including the number of flights or identities of passengers on board,” CHA spokesperson Albert Waterhouse said. “Wilson Air Center Chattanooga provides only the necessary operational support, such as fueling and other ground services, to inbound and outbound aircraft.”
HHS had requested help from Tennessee to resettle unaccompanied minors in the state. Gov. Bill Lee denied the request March 19, but the operation continued to move forward.
ago, we declined the Biden Administration’s request to house unaccompanied minors and called on the administration to secure the border and stop scattering children across the country,” Lee said in a statement Thursday. “When we demanded answers, they cut off transparency and emboldened one of the worst human trafficking crises we’ve seen at our border in the last 20 years.”
Detainments at the U.S. border have increased significantly this year. The U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 47,642 unaccompanied minors during the first three months of the year – up 163% from the same period last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data. Agents apprehended 410,460 adults during the same period, a 209% increase over last year. The majority of unaccompanied children apprehended at the southern border are from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.
Lee recently led a group of 20 other governors calling on the Biden administration to address the crisis at the southern border via a letter.
“The crisis is too big to ignore and is now spilling over the border states into all of our states,” the letter read. “Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called upon many of our states to identify potential housing locations for migrants. In addition, the Department circumvented our states altogether by asking private organizations and nonprofits to house unaccompanied migrant children.”
New York policeman fatally shot, another wounded, fourth NYPD officer shot in four days
ANew York City police officer was fatally shot and another critically wounded Friday night while responding to a call at a Harlem apartment about a dispute between a woman and her adult son.
The incident marked the fourth NYPD officer shot in as many days and the most recent shooting in a spate of violent crimes in the city, a surge in lawlessness that new Mayor Eric Adams is trying to get under control.
In the incident Friday night, the two officers shot, along with a third officer, went to the apartment on 135th Street at about 6:30 p.m. in response to the call.
The officers spoke with the woman and another son, but there was no mention of a weapon. Two of them then walked from the front of the apartment down a narrow hallway, according to the Associated Press.
NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said the third officer stayed with the women who was fighting with another son, identified as 47-year-old LaShawn McNeil, who allegedly opened a bedroom door and shot at the officers.
The officer who was killed has been identified as Jason Rivera, 22, who joined the force in November 2020. The wounded officer is 27-year-old Wilbert Mora, who has been with the NYPD for four years.
The third officer on the call, who stayed with McNeil’s mother in the front of the apartment, shot at McNeil and wounded him in the head and arm, the wire service also reports.
McNeil was on probation for a 2003 drug conviction in New York City. He also had several out-of-state arrests, including one in 1998 in South Carolina for unlawfully carrying a pistol. Records show the matter was later dismissed. McNeil also was arrested in 2002 in Pennsylvania for assaulting a police officer, Essig told reporters.
The weapon McNeil allegedly used was a handgun with a high-capacity magazine stolen in Baltimore in 2017, the Associated Press also reports.
Virginia’s Youngkin, big school districts on collision course over mask mandates
One of the executive orders signed by new Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin removes the school masking requirement across the state. However, two Northern Va. counties – Arlington and Alexandria – have said they will be keeping the masking policies in place.
Youngkin’s order places the power to decide if a child goes to school masked in the hands of the student’s parent. “A child whose parent has elected that he or she is not subject to a mask mandate should not be required to wear a mask under any policy implemented by a teacher, school, school district, the Department of Education, or any other state authority,” reads the order.
Yet 12 hours after the governor’s order, the Arlington Public School system announced that it would not be complying with the order.
“Arlington Public Schools implemented our mask requirement this school year prior to Gov. Northam’s K-12 mask mandate, and we will continue to make decisions that prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our students and staff, following the guidance of local and national health professionals,” the system said in a statement.
Alexandria City schools soon followed suit, writing “ACPS will continue to abide by the health and safety guidelines of the CDC and the Alexandria Health Department and continue to require all individuals to wear masks that cover the nose and mouth in ACPS schools, facilities and buses.”
In response to a question about the actions of Arlington and Alexandria, Youngkin said, “We wrote the order specifically to give all the school systems, basically, eight days to get ready to listen to parents.”
He added that he would use “every resource within the governor’s authority to explore what we can and will do to ensure parents’ rights are protected.”
Arizona father threatens school principal with citizen’s arrest, zip tie over quarantine rules
Wielding zip ties, an Arizona father threatened the principal of his son’s elementary school with a citizen’s arrest upon learning his child would be required to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
The school district confirmed that the father arrived Thursday morning at the Mesquite Elementary School with his son and two other men to protest the quarantine policy. The men told the principal, Diane Vargo, that they would conduct a citizen’s arrest if the child was not permitted to enter the school building.
Schools in the state are required to report virus cases to the county health department, which in turn assesses who needs to quarantine. John Carruth, the district superintendent, said Thursday was a “tough day.”
“One of the most powerful tools as adults is the behavior that we model to young people – and the behavior that was modeled today makes me really sad,” he said.
In August, Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey said that state would not provide federal COVID-19 relief funds to public school districts that required students to wear masks.
“Parents are in the driver’s seat, and it’s their right to make decisions that best fit the needs of their children,” he said at the time.
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