U.S. Congressman Mark Green Explains His New Bill Addressing the Status of Migrant Children in Tennessee
Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed U.S. (R) Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee congressman to the newsmakers line to outline his new bill that establishes illegal migrant children’s status that are coming into Tennessee and preferential treatment of refugees in Central American countries.
Leahy: On our newsmaker line our good friend, Congressman Mark Green from Tennessee. My congressman who does a great job, by the way. Good morning, Congressman Green.
Green: Hey sir. How are you? Good to be on your show.
Leahy: Well, we’re delighted to have you on. And we want to have you in studio someday soon. You’re introducing a new bill apparently or have to address the issue of migrant children being brought to Tennessee. Tell us about that.
Green: Yes. We found out that with this incredible border crisis, the open door and open border policy that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have created, it’s resulted in a lot of children showing up at our doorsteps.
And what’s happened with the federal government and its clandestine methodologies decided they just fly these folks to Tennessee without letting Tennessee know. In fact, they asked Governor Lee and Governor Lee said no but they sent them anyway in the dead of the night.
The problem is the incentives that have been created, we have to shut the incentives down. What we’re basically saying is that the federal government has to ask the governor for permission.
The governor has to give permission. But one of the things we’re doing to make sure that the children are still taking care of we’re moving them from the control of HHS and the refugee program to Homeland Security so that it’s still an immigration issue and not some kind of refugee issue.
Making those guys be classified as migrants keeps the legal status in a way that the federal government can’t force them on Tennessee. The other issue is with this bill is we’re addressing the preferential treatment to certain countries in Central America that get automatic refugee status.
And so we’re trying to fix that as well. And then, of course, to take care of the children. We leading their ability to be housed with HHS because DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, the actual law enforcement folks don’t have the resources to house these children.
So if we leave that portion in law and then change their status, we can address the immigration issue and still take care of the children. And so that’s kind of what the bill does.
Leahy: So it’s interesting you mentioned something that was kind of a mystery to me. I never understood exactly why the Office of Refugee Resettlement was involved in moving these kids here.
Were they trying to just flaunt the law or using a loophole in the law by bringing them in under the Office of Refugee Resettlement? The issue is in the weeds but it struck me as interesting.
And I was wondering, well, how could they do that because these are illegal aliens because they are not coming in through the refugee program.
Green: So that doesn’t make sense in the law. And it’s very interesting. We approached multiple people, former immigration judges. We approached the folks here in D.C. who write the bills for us.
They’re our lawyers on our side that are Republicans and think the way we think. And no one seems to be able to agree on the status of these children and whether they could technically be refugees or not. And so we want to clarify that ambiguity by making sure that the unaccompanied children are, in fact, unaccompanied migrants.
And they can’t, therefore, be treated as a refugee because once they’re treated as a refugee, the state either has to get out of the refugee program completely, which governor chose not to do, or we don’t have to say at that point.
Leahy: Exactly. By the way, this was a very good catch on your part. I’m delighted you’ve done it because you’re kind of solving a bit of this mystery because there is an act called The Refugee Act of 1980 that governs refugees.
Green: That’s exactly correct. With Tennessee in the program, we can’t basically block refugees being resettled in Tennessee as long as the state is in the program because of the court rulings and the way the court rulings found on those original refugee laws.
So that’s why these children, I’m trying to classify them as unaccompanied migrants. And therefore, when they get into that status, it’s a law enforcement and a migration issue and not a refugee issue.
Which is essentially what they truthfully are. So that’s the dilemma we’re fixing. The bill, we’ve had it vetted by tons of different people. And I will tell you, Michael, the people in Tennessee who are smart on this came to us.
We shared the bill. They are the ones who provided the idea on this. This is constituents informing their congressman and educating me on some of the nuances of this that resulted in a much better bill.
Leahy: Well, what’s going to happen with this bill when you introduce it?
Green: What we’ve got to do is find four or five Democrats who are willing to buck Pelosi, which in this day and age is hard to find. It makes it hard for us to get anything done.
Leahy: Do we need to give you Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s phone number? Do you think she’ll be one of the four or five? That’s a joke. (Laughs)
Green: I don’t want that on my phone.
Leahy: (Laughs) That’s a bad joke on my part.
Green: (Chuckles) She’s the wrong one to go to. But there are a couple out there that are trying to save their seat and what’s going to happen in the next cycle.
Leahy: Will it be a Democratic member of Congress from a border state?
Green: There are a couple, actually, that are pushing for Kamala Harris to come down there. So we might be able to get those guys to say, hey, yeah, Let’s do it.
Leahy: But it could also be somebody from a state like, I don’t know Tennessee. Do you think Jim Cooper is going to jump in and say, oh yeah, we don’t want these illegal aliens shipped in here in the dark of night? Or Steve Cohen, you’re good friends?
Green: It’s hard to read where Jim is going to be on this one because of just the dynamics of what’s happening to his district. It’ll be a little bit hard to predict where Jim will be. We could sit down and talk with him about it. I would have to do that.
Leahy: I would like to be a fly on the wall when you have that conversation with Jim Cooper.
Green: Yeah, we’ve had several. (Laughter)
Listen to the full second hour here:
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