May 18, 2024

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Gov. Kelly won’t discuss federal grants to take unaccompanied minors

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Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Baxter Springs Republican, is finding it difficult to get information about Kansas being paid to resettle unaccompanied minors who enter the country illegally. Hilderbrand, Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee chair, asked Governor Kelly a month ago if Kansas participates in that program but there has been no response.

“While I understand that this is a federal grant funded through the Biden administration, once a child has been placed in the state of Kansas, state child welfare laws apply,” Hilderbrand wrote in a letter to the Governor dated June 3. The letter requests state-specific information about the program and whether the state participates.

Hilderbrand said information from the Governor’s office is tough to come by, even for lawmakers. In the letter, Hilderbrand seeks to learn the current number of unaccompanied minors in state-licensed facilities or placed in Kansas foster homes, the number of unaccompanied minors residing in Kansas who have been reunified with their parents, a list of licensed facilities placing unaccompanied minors in Kansas, and the last date the Kelly administration inspected or surveyed any licensed residential facility or group home housing unaccompanied minors, if applicable.

One Kansas facility may be accepting unaccompanied minors

“While I agree Kansans must take care of vulnerable children in Kansas, the Kelly administration should not enable President Biden’s reckless immigration policy that allows violent cartels to exploit naive states at the expense of vulnerable and innocent children,” he wrote. “I look forward to your response and working with the administration to ensure the safety, health, and best interests of Kansans.”

Specific, current information about unaccompanied minors in Kansas is difficult to find. However, a Government Office of Accountability report from July 2020 shows 176 nationwide facilities receiving funds through federal resettlement grants, including one in Kansas. 

Federal law requires that unaccompanied children in the custody of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security be transferred to the U.S. Health and Human Services within 72 hours. According to the report, HHS typically places minors in shelter facilities. However, there are some exceptions, including secure shelters for children with offender history and residential treatment centers for children with diagnosed mental health disorders. According to the Office for Refugee Resettlement, all children in its care receive classroom education, mental and medical health services, case management, recreation, and unification services to facilitate release to family members of sponsors, the report notes.

Though he sent the written request nearly a month ago, the Kelly administration has yet to respond or even acknowledge receipt.

“Kansans deserve to know this,” he said. “It is very disappointing that this administration is not being transparent.”

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