Photo: Representative Bruce Griffey, Senator Dawn White, Senator Bo Watson / background: screen capture of beginning of hearing
Photo Credit: capitol.tn.gov / wrcbtv
***Update July 9, 2021 – According to Jennifer Donnals, Chief of Staff of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the hearing ended at 8PM CST Wednesday night and the judge is expected to have decision sometime next week. The Tennessee Conservative will keep you updated.***
Published July 8, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Yesterday (July 7) at 10AM, an administrative law judge presided over a hearing regarding the suspension of the license of the Baptiste Group to operate a shelter housing illegal alien minors in Chattanooga.
The hearing was set as a video conference but was closed to the public.
The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed two motions yesterday morning, just before the hearing began, to close the proceedings to the media and the public.
WRCBtv reports that attorneys from the Baptiste Group argued that they did not believe the meeting should be closed but the judge sided with DCS citing a Tennessee code that deals with the confidentiality of records.
DCS stated that the suspension of the license is directly tied to the child abuse allegation and the public hearing would risk the confidentiality of the children.
The Tennessee Conservative has reached out to the TN Department of Children’s Services and will publish any updates as they become available.
Following reports of sexual battery against a 17-year-old male by a staff member and reports of a runaway 16-year-old male from the Chattanooga shelter housing illegal aliens, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services suspended the license given to the Baptiste Group last Thursday.
However, there was no stipulation made that the Baptiste Group could not appeal this decision and potentially have their license reinstated.
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According to Jennifer Donnals, Chief of Staff of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, the Baptiste Group requested a hearing on the order of suspension Friday afternoon.
DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols stated that “The facility has proven an inability to hire individuals who are suitable and capable of caring for children within the facility’s care resulting in significant criminal charges against at least one staff member and potential for youth to be subject to further abuse or lack of adequate supervision.”
The Tennessee Conservative reached out to all the members of the Tennessee Joint Study Committee on Refugee Issues. Several replied with their statements.
Senator Dawn White stated, “The case of abuse in this Chattanooga facility is very troubling and I do not support its reopening. The possibility for abuse and exploitation of unaccompanied minors was one of the concerns in forming the committee. Obviously, it was a legitimate concern. Another concern was transparency surrounding the federal government’s transport and relocation of these minors in Tennessee. We have a right to know exactly who is being brought to our state and how long they will be here. I am deeply concerned with the Biden administration’s very deliberate rollback of President Trump’s immigration policies. I am hopeful that our committee will shine a light on the process and bring openness and transparency to an issue on which the federal government has failed to do so.”
Senator Bo Watson stated, “I don’t support the re-opening of the federal facility. The State of Tennessee got out of this process during the Bredesen administration. I have grave concerns about these federal contractors and the lack of transparency and notification from the federal government. I cannot support reopening this or any other federal facility in Tennessee until we have a full accounting for the recent allegations and we secure our southern border to stem the flow of illegal immigration into this country and our State.”
Representative Bruce Griffey said that he opposes all efforts to enable immigration into Tennessee by non-U.S. citizens which includes the licensing of any ‘migrant care facilities’ by the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
Griffey states that he challenges Governor Lee to issue an order to that effect.
“As an elected Representative, I swore an oath to serve my constituents who overwhelming oppose illegal immigration as well as legal immigration. I therefore propose a complete ban on ALL immigration for at least a 10-year period,” Griffey said.
Most conservatives agree with Griffey and believe that the unaccompanied alien children should never have been in Tennessee in the first place.
Limestone, TN resident Wendy Sykora says, “Get them ALL out! We did not ask for or approve of sneaking these people into TN In the middle of the night. We need busses…lots of busses to drive them ALL straight to DC and drop them off!”
Memphis, TN resident Mike Kennedy says, “Should’ve never been here in the first place. If California and the West Coast wants open borders so much, send the illegal ones there.”
When the reports of child abuse at the Chattanooga Immigrant Shelter were first uncovered in mid-June, several Republican Representatives foresaw the potential for more problems should the status quo continue unchecked.
Representative Scott Cepicky of Culleoka questioned why all of the children at the shelter were not interviewed after the initial allegation was made.
“How do we know there’s not 40 or 50 kids over there who have abuse?”, Cepicky asked, citing the fact that DCS had only interviewed six of the 62 minors being kept there at the time.
“We’re facilitating international sex trafficking, could be, but certainly trafficking of children,” stated Senator Janice Bowling of Tullahoma.
Representative John Ragan also acknowledged the potential for trafficking.
“I have a concern over trafficking. Since most of these people are adolescent males, that makes them prime candidates for gang recruitment and that is a major concern,” Ragan stated.
Ragan continued, “We have a problem with gang violence problems in our schools. Key recruitment tool going on right here, folks. Should we not, with this unprecedented amount of refugees hitting our doorsteps, why wouldn’t the department take it upon themselves to start to screen all these kids that are coming from the border just to make sure that they’re not being trafficked through our facilities?”
Cepicky went on to argue that these unaccompanied children should not have been in the Chattanooga shelter in the first place.
“We’re not talking about refugees who are coming from war-torn Somalia or North Africa where people are being persecuted for just being a certain religion,” Cepicky said. “These are people coming across the border, illegally, into our country that are being deemed refugees – which is not even close to being who they are – sent to our communities here in Chattanooga, which is two and a half hours down the road, to being dropped off to other places of Tennessee where we don’t know where they’re going.”
The Tennessee Conservative will publish updates as new information comes to light.
The Study Committee on Refugee Issues includes the following Senators and Representatives:
Senate Members –
SENATOR DAWN WHITE (CHAIR) – (R) – (615) 741-6853 – email@example.com
SENATOR RICHARD BRIGGS – (R) – (615) 741-1766 – firstname.lastname@example.org
SENATOR TODD GARDENHIRE – (R) – (615) 741-6682 – email@example.com
SENATOR ED JACKSON – (R) – (615) 741-1810 – firstname.lastname@example.org
SENATOR BO WATSON – (R) – (615) 741-3227 – email@example.com
House Members –
REPRESENTATIVE SCOTTY CAMPBELL – (R) – (615) 741-2050 – firstname.lastname@example.org
REPRESENTATIVE BRUCE GRIFFEY – (R) – (615) 741-6804 – email@example.com
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TODD – (R) – (615) 741-7475 – firstname.lastname@example.org
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN WILLIAMS – (R) – (615) 741-1875 – email@example.com
About the Author:
Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative
Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen and the Crossville Chronicle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com