BOISE, Idaho (CBSDC/AP) — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has sent a letter to federal officials telling them not to send any of the unaccompanied young migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border to Idaho — but it turns out the feds already have, albeit a tiny number.
Otter sent the letter Wednesday to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez. On Thursday, federal authorities released data on the number of children sent to various states, including eight to Idaho.
Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, said no one from the federal government had informed the state.
“We are working now to determine the veracity of this report,” Hanian wrote in an email. “Should it prove to be true, it underscores the importance of the letter the governor released yesterday putting the federal government on notice, that Idaho will not be used as a staging area or a destination for the crisis the federal government has created.
“Just as troubling is the fact that they are ignoring states and the impacts associated with placing these undocumented migrants without the knowledge or consent of state governments.”
More than 57,000 minors, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have crossed into the United States since October, fueling an already intense debate over immigration in Washington and across the nation.
President Barack Obama is seeking a $3.7 billion appropriation for more immigration judges and detention facilities, while congressional Republicans are demanding a smaller appropriation coupled with changes in federal law to speed up deportations. Obama has also vowed to take executive actions in an effort to fix the immigration system.
“It is imperative that Congress take action to correct loopholes and insist on enforcement of immigration policy instead of simply wringing its hands while this disaster unfolds,” Otter wrote in the letter, which he also sent to Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation. “But until reform occurs, federal agencies must step up and solve this problem.”
The influx of children has overwhelmed the system, and some have been sent to other states. A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, said this week that the federal government notified Bentley that immigrant children will be placed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.
Otter, a second-term Republican, is seeking a third term as governor.
His Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, told The Spokesman-Review that Otter’s letter was an election-year ploy.
“We frankly think it’s not appropriate for Gov. Otter to weigh in on this national crisis that has nothing to do with his office at this time just to score political points,” said Balukoff’s campaign spokesman, Mike Lanza. “A.J. feels that Gov. Otter is trying desperately to talk about anything except his own record on education and jobs in Idaho.”
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