U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says Iowa doesn't have the resources for "babysitting" migrant children.
Grassley on Wednesday, who visited the U.S.-Mexico border two weeks ago, was asked about Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' rejection of a federal request to accept migrant children into the state, saying the need to find homes for them "is the president’s problem."
Reynolds told WHO radio that her priority is the health and safety of Iowans and that the state doesn’t have facilities to house migrant children for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Grassley, on a conference call with reporters, defended Reynolds' decision, noting the state already struggles to place Iowa children into foster homes.
"She knows what the capacity of the state of Iowa to handle," Grassley said of Reynolds. "Iowa has an estimated 1,000 kids awaiting adoption without taking on migrant children. ... So I think Gov. Reynolds is putting the people of Iowa first."
Grassley called the influx of migrants into the United States a humanitarian, public health, national security and law enforcement crisis, and that the "Biden administration needs to secure the border as soon as possible."
According to The Associated Press, nearly 19,000 children traveling alone were stopped at the Mexican border last month. It’s the largest monthly number ever recorded.
Grassley contrasted Reynolds' stand on accepting immigrant children with her willingness to accept refugees coming into the United States in 2019.
In a 2019 statement, Reynolds said refugees should not be confused with asylum seekers crossing the southern border at Mexico who don’t go through a strict vetting process.
Grassley called Iowa's long history of accepting refugees under former Iowa Republican Gov. Robert Ray, who helped settle Southeast Asian refugees in the state after the Vietnam War, "entirely different."
"I'm sure we're going to continue to take refugees, but refugees don't need babysitting by the ... state government," Grassley said of arriving migrants and the thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.
Grassley on Wednesday also voted to advance legislation confronting the rise of high-profile attacks and potential hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans.
The Senate voted overwhelmingly, 92-6, to proceed Wednesday to consideration of the bill, which would create a new Justice Department position to expedite a review of hate crimes reported to police during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill would also provide guidance for state and local law enforcement agencies to report hate crimes and expand public education campaigns.
Reports of violence and discrimination against Asian Americans have surged during the pandemic, after former President Donald Trump started calling the coronavirus the "China virus" and using other racially-charged language to describe the virus.
Grassley, though, in remarks on the Senate floor, called the legislation "duplicative or even in conflict with some of the Department of Justice’s existing efforts."
Last month, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a 30-day review of how hate crimes are tracked and prosecuted amid an uptick in crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
"Our responses to the problem of hate crimes must be guided by the facts and a pursuit of sound policy," Grassley said. "I am not sure we have done the legwork to arrive at a legislative solution that will make a difference to preventing, deterring, or punishing these crimes."
Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on committee chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to convene a hearing as soon as the Justice Department’s review is completed to examine its findings. Grassley also led a coalition of senators in introducing a resolution condemning hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Senate Republicans have offered a tepid response to the bill, but were reluctant to filibuster to block the legislation in the evenly divided Senate to avoid claims of being racially insensitive.
"I know that many members of the Republican caucus have amendments that will hopefully improve the bill and make it more useful," Grassley said. "We hope these amendments will be listened to and fairly considered by our Democratic colleagues. This is too important of an issue to get it wrong."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he was open to considering changes to the bill.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)