There isn't just one "big lie" with some Republicans. There are several. Especially in the South among some Republicans.
Take for instance Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's continued misinformation about migrant children in the state and what he says is the Biden administration's "zero transparency" about it. Twice already this page and repeatedly the front page of the Times Free Press has shown Lee's grandstanding to be at best, wrong, and at worst, deliberately misleading. Yet Lee continues to say it and has even enlisted other Republican politicians to do the same.
Lie: Lee was among 20 governors who wrote to the Biden administration about the "lack of transparency" surrounding the federal movement of migrant children in the states and the costs to the states.
"We have neither the resources nor the obligation to solve the federal government's problem and foot the bill for the consequences of this Administration's misguided actions," the governors wrote.
Fact 1: Lee and his administration in May 2020 and again in February 2021 approved the Chattanooga shelter which is — wait for it — fully federally funded and provides on-site education service and medical care.
Where's the state footing any bill? Where's the lack of transparency?
Fact 2: Much of the current federal policy overseeing unaccompanied minors, including the shelter process playing out in here, was passed into law with bipartisan support in 2008 under President George W. Bush. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 ended the adult detention model for children and placed them in federally funded shelters, which include on-site education and medical care, until sponsors could be found.
Last time we looked, the "W" administration was Republican and is not, nor ever was, the Biden administration.
Fact 3: The number of unaccompanied migrant children placed with a vetted sponsor in Hamilton County was lower in 2020 and early 2021 than any years since 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the peak year, 2019 under Donald Trump, Hamilton County saw 234 unaccompanied migrant children placed here. In 2020 we had 53, and in the first six months of fiscal 2021, 66. Tennessee has similar numbers. In fiscal 2019, nearly 2,200 children were placed with sponsors in Tennessee. For the first half of fiscal year 2021, 717 children have been placed in the Volunteer State.
For the math challenged, we'll sum this up. More migrant children were placed with sponsors in Hamilton County and Tennessee in previous years and previous administrations than are projected for President Joe Biden's first year in office.
Now Lee has prevailed on the state Senate and House speakers to create a special committee to look into the issue of unaccompanied migrant children coming into Chattanooga and other parts of the state.
Seriously? Don't we have some really important things to look into? Like early childhood education? Like helping more people vote? Like stopping gun violence? Oh, wait, our lawmakers don't want to fund early childhood education, they don't want more people to vote, and they think more guns are the answer to gun violence.
Nonetheless, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker from Oak Ridge, and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, announced Friday that a new Study Committee on Refugee Issues will "evaluate" the number of migrant children being "permanently relocated" here by the federal government as well how many of the children are being flown into the state and later relocated to other states.
The study committee also will seek ways to "increase transparency" from the federal government about the relocations, "and the impact, financial and beyond."
Didn't we just answer all those questions?
Both Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, are among five senators McNally named to the panel, with Sen. Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro, serving as chair for the senators on the joint panel. Other members are Sens. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, and Ed Jackson, R-Jackson.
Sexton said he is "in agreement" with Lee "not to accept any unaccompanied migrant children. I appreciate Lt. Gov. McNally, as well as all those serving on the study committee, for their partnership in shining a light on the federal government's secretive immigration practices."
It's not secretive. It has never been secretive.
To his credit, Gardenhire told this editor Friday that he asked to be named to the committee because he knows it's not secretive and not a state cost issue and not "human trafficking" (as Lee's spokesperson recently insinuated). It is children who are escaping horrible conditions, gangs and possibly real human trafficking in their home countries.
Here's hoping Gardenhire can bring truth and clarity to this sad state of misinformation and needless fear mongering.