The governor was part of a discussion on the immigration issue during a recent National Governors Association meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in Nashville. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett also signed the letter, which reads:
Dear President Obama:
At the recent National Governors Association (NGA) meeting in Nashville, many of us had the opportunity to meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to discuss the issue of unaccompanied minors coming into our country. Governors on both sides of the aisle expressed concern with your administration’s handling of this situation.
In the meeting, Secretary Burwell confirmed that the federal government is not inquiring whether these undocumented children are being placed with sponsors or relatives who are undocumented themselves. This raises real questions as to whether these children will maintain appropriate contacts with our legal system and will follow necessary procedures designed to protect both them and the American public.
As we were told at the NGA meeting, currently nearly half fail to show up for their assigned immigration proceeding. We are concerned that there will be significant numbers who will end up using the public schools, social services and health systems largely funded by the states. More importantly, we are concerned that the failure to return the unaccompanied children will send a message that will encourage a much larger movement towards our southern border. We fear that this will put a significant number of children at risk of abuse and neglect on their journey to the United States.
More than 57,000 children have crossed the border since October last year. Reports are that 90,000 children could make the journey by this fall. With no end in sight, we need to have a plan to deal with this crisis in a humanitarian and practical way. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.