DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that he does not want Iowa to host any of the thousands of children from Central America who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border alone.
During a news conference, Branstad said he was not aware of any of the children currently living in Iowa and that state has not been contacted by the federal government about housing any immigrant children. He said the government's focus should be on securing the borders.
"The first thing we need to do is secure the border. I do have empathy for these kids," Branstad said. "But I also don't want to send the signal that (you) send your kids to America illegally. That's not the right message."
Branstad was among a group of governors that met Sunday with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell as the Obama administration sought support from states that could host the children.
Under current law, immigrant children from countries that do not border the United States and who cross into the U.S. by themselves are turned over to federal authorities. Then, they often are reunited with parents or placed with other relatives already living here while they wait for an immigration court to decide their future. The court process can take years.
Branstad was critical Sunday of the fact that there is no review of the immigration status of relatives who take custody of the children.
Since Oct. 1, more than 57,000 children have crossed the border. Most are from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala.