CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – Chattanooga has been caught in the crossfire of the latest nationwide immigration debate, after local church Redemption to the Nations began housing unaccompanied minors who arrived at the Southern border in recent weeks – with an unused former Tennessee Temple dormitory being used to house the minors.
Now, the debate has centered around whether the unaccompanied migrants should be allowed to attend schools in Hamilton County.
School board member Rhonda Thurman, who got into a heated debate with a fellow member during a meeting regarding the children on Monday, stood by the questions she asked during the meeting.
“Some of the questions I have are – how many of them are there? How big are the Tennessee Temple dorms? How many students can you house there? Is this going to be all there’s going to be or are they going to be bringing in more? How many do they plan on housing there? How long are they going to be there? I mean, there’s all kinds of questions to ask, and that doesn’t say – I mean, I just need some information. I want to know who approved them to be here,” says Thurman.
But local immigration attorney Terry Olsen says that the practice of housing the children and having them attend school locally is not out of the ordinary.
In fact, it falls under the McKinney-Vento Act of 1987, which is federal law.
“These minors were actually released legally into the U.S. to await either an asylum interview or an asylum hearing at an immigration court. So, this is nothing new. I actually don’t understand why anyone’s upset about this. I don’t know why anyone’s actually yelling about this. I don’t understand any of the concerns, because it’s completely legal, it’s always been done in the U.S. It’s actually probably done much better now,” says Olsen.