Questions remain about unaccompanied immigrant children in TN - WSMV Channel 4

Questions remain about unaccompanied immigrant children in TN

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A letter that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam sent to President Barack Obama continues to draw criticism.

The governor asked why no one told state officials about the 760 unaccompanied immigrant children released in the state? But advocates for immigrants say the governor is asking the wrong questions.

The advocates are also worried about the tone of the letter. They say these immigrants came here for a better life, which is why they want officials to focus on welcoming the children.

"We definitely agree with one part of his letter, that Tennessee is a welcoming and diverse state," said Eben Cathey with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

Cathey firmly believes the children were reunited with relatives, not random sponsors, but no one really knows where the children went, not even immigration advocates.

"We actually haven't heard where these children are being resettled. I think that their privacy is being protected. I think that these kids deserve the same amount of privacy as anyone who is being reunited with their mom or dad or aunts or uncles," Cathey said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the net fiscal impact of unauthorized immigrants is negative, but it looks modest at state and local levels.

With the new school year coming, many of Haslam's questions remain unanswered. How did the feds locate and evaluate these sponsors? How long will these children be in Tennessee? Did they receive medical screenings before getting released?

But others say immigrants offer their own investments if they can thrive.

"Immigrants start businesses at a rate of 2 to 1 in Tennessee and across the United States. So I think the entrepreneurial spirit that immigrants bring to our state is great for our economy," Cathey said.

Advocates believe most of these children come from Central America.

Six other governors wrote a similar letter to the president. They represent Alabama, North Carolina, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wisconsin.

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