State lawmaker questions legislation in response to migrant children flown to Chattanooga

A state lawmaker in Hamilton County has concerns with steps congressional leaders are taking after learning of late-night flights carrying migrant children into Chattanooga.

READ MORE |FIRST ON 3: Late-night flights carrying migrant children arrive in Chattanooga 

Senator Todd Gardenhire was appointed to a state task force, focused on refugee issues in Tennessee. He believes legislation proposed by Tennessee U.S. senators seeking transparency from the federal government is a step too far.

Gardenhire says he visited the Baptiste Group back in March. He wanted to see for himself the facility in Chattanooga that has a contract with the federal government to house unaccompanied minors. The state renewed the group's license to do so back in February.

So Gardenhire is curious as to why lawmakers at the federal level weren't aware of unaccompanied minors coming into Chattanooga before now.

"When you compare my status with a U.S. Senator or a U.S. Congressman or a Governor, so you have to ask the question, how come I know? And how come they didn't know?" Sen. Gardenhire told Channel 3.

In March, Gardenhire visited the former Tennessee Temple dormitory, a facility in his district housing unaccompanied minors.

Two weeks ago, Channel 3 confirmed four flights carrying hundreds of migrant children landed in Chattanooga as part of an effort to relocate them across the Southeast.

Since then, additional flights have come into Wilson Air.

Lawmakers across the state responded to Channel 3's report on how the process worked, saying they were unaware migrant children were being transported through Tennessee and asked for transparency from the federal government.

Tennessee congressional leaders took a legislative step after they say they did not receive answers from the Biden Administration.

"I don't know why they couldn't have gotten that information without passing a bill," Gardenhire said.

Sen. Gardenhire believes the lawmakers, all Republicans, have used this for political purposes.

"This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of what do we do with these children that are here now in America,” Gardenhire said.

Gardenhire says he is not dismissing the need for transparency between federal and state governments about the border response and the transport of migrant children.

That's why he says he is part of a state task force that is working to get answers on the number of migrant children permanently located in Tennessee and who's funding it.

"We need to find out what the facts are. What's really happening? Why it's happening? And then proceed from there," Gardenhire told Channel 3.

Senator Gardenhire says since he visited back in March, he knows of two children staying at the Baptiste Group that were reunited with family in Chattanooga.

From October to April, 99 children have been released to sponsors in Hamilton County.