Harkin calls for protection, refuge for unaccompanied child immigrants

Harkin calls for protection, refuge for unaccompanied child immigrants

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CEDAR RAPIDS | U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on Thursday sharply criticized Gov. Terry Branstad and others reluctant to extend humanitarian aid to unaccompanied minors coming to the United States from Central America.

“I’m disappointed that Gov. Terry Branstad has somehow stated that we shouldn’t take these kids,” he said during a conference call with Iowa reporters Thursday. “Why not? Why can’t we help protect these kids?”

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. 

U.S. officials are planning to fly immigrants to other cities. After they are processed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will decide who can be released while awaiting deportation proceedings.

Branstad earlier this week said he sympathizes with the immigrants but is opposed to having them come to Iowa.

Harkin on Thursday called Branstad’s comments a departure from the compassion that former Republican Gov. Bob Ray showed in the 1970s in helping to settle refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

“They didn’t go through proper channels,” Harkin said. “They didn’t come here legally. They were refugees, fleeing war, the terrible things happening to them. We took them in and they have become a wonderful part of the Iowa community.”

Branstad’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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