Gov. Otter Letter: Don't send migrant kids to Idaho

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has sent a letter to federal officials telling them not to send any of the unaccompanied young migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border to Idaho.

Otter on Wednesday sent the letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez.

"It should be understood that the State of Idaho and its subdivisions will not be actively involved in addressing the humanitarian crisis the federal government has created," Otter wrote. "Idaho will not open itself to the unwelcome challenges with which other states have struggled at the federal government's hands."

More than 57,000 minors, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, have crossed into the United States since October, fueling an already intense debate over immigration in Washington and across the nation. Idaho has not been contacted by federal officials about bringing any of the children to Idaho.

President Barack Obama is seeking a $3.7 billion appropriation for more immigration judges and detention facilities, while congressional Republicans are demanding a smaller appropriation coupled with changes in federal law to speed up deportations.

"It is imperative that Congress take action to correct loopholes and insist on enforcement of immigration policy instead of simply wringing its hands while this disaster unfolds," Otter wrote in the letter he also sent to Idaho's all-Republican congressional delegation. "But until reform occurs, federal agencies must step up and solve this problem."

"The governor felt it was important to act preemptively," Otter spokesman Jon Hanian told the Spokesman-Review.

The influx of children has overwhelmed the system and some have been sent to other states. A spokeswoman for Republican Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said this week that the federal government notified Bentley that immigrant children will be placed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama.

Otter, a second-term Republican, is seeking a third term as governor.

His Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, said Otter's letter was an election year ploy.

"We frankly think it's not appropriate for Gov. Otter to weigh in on this national crisis that has nothing to do with his office at this time just to score political points," said Balukoff's campaign spokesman, Mike Lanza. "A.J. feels that Gov. Otter is trying desperately to talk about anything except his own record on education and jobs in Idaho."


Information from: The Spokesman-Review