Children placed in Iowa after illegally crossing border - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Children placed in Iowa after illegally crossing border

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DES MOINES (KWWL) - Initial reports show at least 122 children that came into the U.S. illegally are now living in Iowa. 

According to a representative at Senator Chuck Grassley's office, the Department of Health and Human Services has updated that number to 139.

That came as a surprise to Gov. Terry Branstad, who has repeatedly said he doesn't want these children in Iowa.

“The federal government didn’t notify the state of the placements until we attempted to confirm the number from the press’ inquiry,” Jimmy Centers, Branstad's communications director, said. 

“Gov. Branstad empathizes with the children who are seeking a better life in America, but he believes we must secure our border first and follow immigration laws already in place," Centers added. "The governor is concerned that the situation at the border, if not handled properly, may encourage others to attempt the very dangerous journey across Central America and Mexico.”

Every day, unaccompanied children cross into the U.S. illegally. Since October, at least 57,000 have made it into the country. 

All the children in Iowa were placed with sponsor families.

“There are no illegal immigrant shelters in Iowa, nor are there illegal immigrants from the southern border crisis in state facilities,” Centers said.

Initially, many of these unaccompanied children are held in facilities near the border, but Rich Eychaner, founder of the Eychaner Foundation, said that needs to change.

"Our goal is to get the 57,000 children who are currently incarcerated along the Southwest border out of jail and into Iowa homes," Eychaner said. "If Iowa takes 1,000 kids, and other states take their share, we can get these kids out from behind bars."

Eychaner is pushing the “1,000 Kids for Iowa” project to achieve that end.

Branstad, on the other hand, said Monday that he'd like to see these children sent home.

That doesn't sit well with Eychaner.

“I'm disappointed that he's taking that point of view,” he said. 

“The analogy I use is that, if you're in a four-story building that's on fire and you jump out the window to save your life, you're not thinking about what's below, you're thinking about what's behind you," Eychaner added. "And to say to those kids, 'You've got to jump back up into the building,' is not a humane answer, and I hope the governor reconsiders and opens his heart to these children."

Both Grassley and Branstad's people said they were concerned by the lack of transparency in the placements.

Grassley is sponsoring new legislation that would require the government to give a state 48 hours notice before sending immigrant children. The governor's office is working to clarify the situation with the Department of Homeland Security.

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