GOP governors: Hey, why are planes landing in the middle of the night with migrant children on board?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has a question for federal government officials – why are planes landing at the Des Moines airport in the middle of the night with migrant children on board? Why isn’t the federal government giving the governor a heads-up warning that this activity is taking place? Tennessee Governor Bill Lee joins Governor Reynolds in raising questions about the transportation of minors into Tennessee.


Governor Reynolds confirmed Thursday that a plane loaded with at least 19 migrant children landed in Des Moines from California in April. It has taken this long to get a straight answer out of the federal agencies involved in transporting unaccompanied minors from state to state. She wants more details. According to a statement released by Reynolds’ office, the children deplaned and were loaded into two buses which took them to various locations for family reunification.

“We weren’t able to get any answers about why there were chartered planes coming in the middle of night — chartered buses — and unaccompanied minors removed from the plane and then transported outside of the state,” Reynolds told reporters Thursday.

The Des Moines Register previously confirmed that a flight, chartered by the federal government, had landed in Des Moines on April 22 before heading to its final destination of Miami, Florida, and that some passengers got off the plane in Iowa. Local news in Long Beach, California, reported the flight held nearly 100 unaccompanied migrant children.

Officials from Immigration Customs Enforcement, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the Iowa Department of Human Services and numerous other state officials and agencies each denied any knowledge of the flight to the Register.

Reynolds’ office said two children were released to sponsors at the Des Moines International Airport after the plane landed. It’s unclear whether they stayed in Iowa or if any other children were released to sponsors in the state.

In April, a total of 163 unaccompanied migrant children were released to sponsors in Iowa, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement statistics.


There’s that Biden administration transparency at work again. According to Reynolds’ office, the governor wasn’t aware of the flight until May 2.

Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee joined Reynolds in signing a letter asking for answers and addressed to Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley. Twice the federal agencies involved lied to the governors, denying any involvement.

“The federal government’s failure to provide advance notification to states places an undue burden on our law enforcement partners to determine whether these types of flights constitute a criminal act of human trafficking or the federally-sponsored transport of vulnerable children,” Reynolds said in a joint letter with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Thursday. Both governors are Republican.

“With the prospect of no federal government involvement in a flight carrying what we learned were several young girls landing in the dead of night and separated into buses, we started to investigate the transportation companies involved in order to rule out human trafficking,” Reynolds and Lee wrote to U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

You can understand the concern about human trafficking. Biden’s border crisis has reaped big financial rewards for coyotes and human smugglers, along with drug cartels, who take advantage of migrants. It is not outside the realm of possibility that a cartel, flush with cash, would charter a plane to shuttle unaccompanied minors around the country. It took until May 21, nearly a month after the plane in question landed in Des Moines, to get some honest answers. The feds admitted they lied to Governor Reynolds. Once Senator Grassley got involved, just like that, the agencies fessed up.


On May 21, nearly a month after the flight landed in Des Moines, HHS confirmed to Grassley that the flight was chartered by its Office of Refugee Resettlement, and that 19 children were flown to Iowa, Reynolds’ news release said.

HHS also confirmed it chartered the two busses that transported the children from the Des Moines International Airport to airports in or near Kansas City, Missouri; Janesville, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Detroit, Michigan, according to Reynolds.

In some cases, buses like these have held unaccompanied migrant children for days before unification with sponsors.

Both governors have been clear with the Biden administration as it looks to distribute illegal migrants throughout the country – do not send them to our states. Both have rejected requests from the Biden administration to house migrants.

With illegal migration at the southern border at record levels, the Biden administration is desperate to find places to warehouse groups of migrants away from the southern border. The administration is trying to move then further into the country, particularly into the Midwest and to some states along the East Coast, like Tennessee. Reynolds and Lee want lawmakers like Grassley to understand the problems that transporting migrants across the country causes for governors. They ask for Congressional hearings into the lack of transparency from HHS.


The demand for Congressional hearings is a bipartisan effort now that Democrat U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne has joined the two Republican governors. Axne said that the government’s lying about their involvement with the flights does nothing to invoke trust in the government to handle the immigration system.

U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne, a Democrat, joined Reynolds’ call for transparency. In a statement sent Thursday, Axne said she reached out to HHS upon hearing about the April 22 flight.

“Despite repeated request, neither Rep. Axne nor her office received any information on the flight from HHS, and ICE denied operating any such flight,” a news release from Axne’s office said. Axne said the lack of transparency was “unacceptable.”

“I join Governor Reynolds in demanding further investigation and disclosure from HHS to determine why this flight was kept secret and why its existence was denied to both the public and to the public officials seeking to learn the whole truth,” Axne said in a statement.

Axne said that denying the existence of the flight does not help “rebuild trust and fix our broken immigration system,” rather, it provides “fodder to those who would use this episode only to feed the disinformation and conspiracies related to our current immigration policies.”

It’s past time that elected officials on both sides of the aisle hold the government agencies accountable and call them out on their lies.


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