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(Radio Iowa) - July 24, 2014 By 

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley blasts the Obama administration for not telling state officials about dozens of Central American children being placed in Iowa after entering the U.S. illegally. Grassley, a Republican, says the feds were wrong to put the 139 children in Iowa homes without giving the state a heads-up to provide health care, mental health care and other state services.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, disagrees. “My colleague is just wrong in saying that somehow we ought to let everyone know where these kids are, who they are,” Harkin says. “That is wrong.” Harkin says the operation was kept secret for a reason as there have been angry protests in other U.S. cities along the Mexican border which likely traumatized the already-frightened children. “These kids need to be protected, housed and kept safe,” Harkin says. “They don’t need to be made public objects where perhaps people can go out and picket a house. Maybe some family has taken in two or three of these kids to feed them and keep them safe. This is a humanitarian gesture.”

Reports say as many as 57,000 children from Central American nations have entered the U.S., undocumented and unaccompanied, since last fall. Earlier this week, Governor Branstad said he didn’t want the children brought to Iowa, calling them “lawbreakers.” Again, Harkin disagrees: “There’s a reason for the privacy, there’s a reason to protect these kids,” Harkin says. “Keep in mind, these kids are not criminals, they’re refugees. They’re kids that are escaping murder and violence and rape and all kinds of bad things.”

The children deserve due process, Harkin says, and it needs to be determined if they qualify for asylum. “I just met yesterday with the ambassadors of all three countries, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” Harkin says. “Things are now being put in place to help stem the exodus of these kids from those three countries.” Grassley is quoted as saying the cost to taxpayers to care for the children could be as much as one-thousand dollars per day.