Tennessee state official accuses Christian foster care group of ‘dealing’ with migrants


Tennessee State Representative Chris Todd in R-Madison County on Monday accused a Christian foster home organization of facilitating human trafficking by working with the federal government to place migrant children unaccompanied with approved sponsors in the country.

“It all smacks of impropriety, and I’m very concerned about these kids being pushed into this trafficking situation,” Todd said. “Our own federal government is trafficking. They haul them across the country and drop them off in neighborhoods, flying them in the middle of the night.”

The state representative‘s comments came on Monday at the last meeting of the state’s special committee to investigate refugee and immigrant issues. The effort began with concerns over a now closed shelter in Chattanooga.

Executives from Bethany Christian Services, which have an office in Chattanooga, were among several called to testify at the committee’s last meeting in Nashville.

It’s unclear on what basis Todd thinks President Joe Biden’s administration treats children, which typically involves taking minors through violence or coercion and forcing them into prostitution or other types of work. for profit.

(READ MORE: Tennessee leaders who accuse the Biden administration of “human trafficking” may abuse the term)

Bethany Christian Services, a national organization, has supported unaccompanied children since the 1960s and helped settle 40 unaccompanied children in Tennessee last year through a transitional foster care program, said Amy Scott, director of Group state. The program is federally funded and receives no state money, she said.

“Children are children. An unaccompanied child wants what every child wants – to be with their family and to be safe,” Scott said in his opening testimony. “We help unaccompanied children as a faith-based organization because Jesus calls Christians to welcome the stranger, to love their neighbor, and to serve those who are neglected and ignored. We believe that all children no matter what. where they came from or what they lived, deserves to be treated with dignity and care. “

Scott said his organization has followed a long-standing federal immigration policy. The organization has received around 100 children since March 2019, of which about 15 to 20 have remained in Tennessee after finding a sponsor, Scott said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga migrant shelter only placed one child in town, state senator says)

Todd asked representatives from Bethany Christian Services why they would place unaccompanied children with parents who may be in the United States illegally. He said he would not trust any documents people have to prove a relationship with a child and asked why organizations like Bethany Christian Services do not place unaccompanied children with a family member in their country of origin. ‘origin.

Dana Anderson, vice president of services for refugee and immigrant children at Bethany, said the trends for which children come to the United States are different now than when she started working on the issue 17 years ago . Children today flee violence and gang recruitment, and often find a family member who fled earlier due to credible violent threats.

Representative Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, said it is a commandment in the Christian tradition to provide for those in need. However, he said, the United States cannot help everyone.

“We can’t go and solve all the problems in the world unless we have all the resources in the world and we still may not be able to do it,” said Williams.

The state formed a special committee to investigate immigration in May after the WRCB announced unaccompanied children were flown to Chattanooga – sometimes at night – and accommodated at a shelter in Highland Park before being placed with sponsors. The state had approved a license for the facility in May 2020, and the children began arriving in November 2020.

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services suspended the residential child care license of the facility operating organization, the Baptist Group, in July after charges of child abuse. Three people have since been arrested in connection with the establishment and a case for the complete revocation of Groupe Baptiste’s childcare authorization is before an administrative law judge.

Senator Dawn White, R-Murfreesboro and co-chair of the committee, said the group of lawmakers will write a report on their findings, likely before the January session of the state legislature.

Contact Wyatt Massey at [email protected] or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @ news4mass.