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Local groups react to Gov. Reynolds not assisting in finding housing in Iowa for migrant children

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(KWWL) - Iowa organizations that assist immigrants are speaking out and condemning Governor Kim Reynolds' words after she declined to assist in finding housing for migrant children in the state. The governor made the comment on a Des Moines radio show on Tuesday.

Local groups such as Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice, are explaining that most of the migrant children coming to Iowa are only looking to reunite with their family or people they know.

"We all have a responsibility to protect our community members," Iowa MMJ co-legal director Jody Mashek said.

The Mexico border has seen its highest number of children traveling alone.

While Governor Reynolds is saying Iowa doesn't have the facilities to house these children, the Iowa MMJ organization and other groups like them, are saying otherwise.

"I just think it's very unkind and not welcoming to say that we just don't have the capacity to do that. We do. We would have the capacity, and we should work on finding that capacity," Mashek said.

Immigrant assistance groups say Governor Reynolds has turned her back on immigrants. Reynolds also said this responsibility should fall in the hands of President Joe Biden.

"We should care about everyone and that can include individuals who are already here right now and that can include individuals who need our help. Let's not scapegoat one group," she said.

Those working with the Iowa City Catholic Worker House have been assisting immigrants for years. Helping those seeking safety from their home countries become independent in the United States.

"We support them in any way we possibly can," Iowa City Catholic Worker House member Maureen Vasile said. "We can’t take everybody. I think everyone needs to kind of chip in and I think that there’s plenty of room to bring people here.”

The Catholic Worker House is helping people like Juana Cuyuch Brito, an immigrant from Guatemala. She is having trouble reuniting with her 16-year-old sister who recently migrated from the country.

She says she has filed paperwork and still has not been able to welcome her to her home in Iowa City. Brito's sister was recently transferred from a facility on the border to an overflow one in Pennsylvania.

The Governor's words hit home for her.

"The truth is I feel sad because if she's not going to support us it's going to be hard. I feel sad about it but we're thankful that we do have some support," Iowa City Resident Juana Cuyuch Brito said.

She is glad groups exist in Iowa to help her through situations like these, but if there was support from the governor, and migrant children were assisted, she says it would be easier to be connected with her sister.

"If the Governor would welcome unaccompanied minors to Iowa, specifically those who are trying to reunite with their families in Iowa, then the process would be sped up significantly," Iowa City Catholic House Worker Emily Sinnwell said.

Governor Reynolds also mentioned the health and safety of Iowans are her priority.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Ashley Hinson paid a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday. In an interview with WHO-13, she says one border agent told her the current conditions there are the worst he's faced in his 20 years with border control.

She took a tour of a migrant holding facility and says the children are being treated well, but officials don't have enough resources.

"I think it starts by saying don't come to the United States, period. We are in a pandemic, you're in a border crisis, and as soon as they're getting across this border they're calling their friends back home and saying 'we made it, so ahead and come.' It is sending the wrong message. We need stronger language coming from the Biden administration on this," Hinson said in her comments to WHO-13.

Representative Hinson says border agents need better funding to help with manpower and facility resources. She says that will help with immediate needs as congress looks for long-term solutions to immigration policy.