BOISE – Idaho is off-limits to any plans to ease the growing humanitarian crisis on the Mexican border, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter declared Wednesday in a letter to federal officials.
Idaho, which borders Canada, had not been targeted to help with the influx of children entering the United States illegally. But Otter’s spokesman, Jon Hanian, said, “The governor felt it was important to act pre-emptively.” Otter’s letter said he wants “to immediately eliminate the chance of the federal government using Idaho as a destination or a staging area for the influx of unaccompanied and illegal immigrants entering the United States through our southern border.”
A second-term Republican who is up for re-election, Otter wrote 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; he copied his letter to Idaho’s all-GOP congressional delegation.
“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.”
Otter’s Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff, suggested Otter’s letter was nothing more than a political 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.”
Balukoff is a wealthy Boise businessman and the longtime president of the Boise School Board. Otter is a former three-term U.S. representative and longtime lieutenant governor who’s seeking a rare third term as Idaho’s governor.
Tens of thousands of migrant children, many of them fleeing violence in Central America, have been apprehended trying to cross illegally into the United States at the Mexican border. The influx has prompted protests, including one in the Southern California town of Murrieta on July 1 where protesters chanting “Go home!” turned back three busloads of migrant children and families who were being transferred from one federal facility to another.
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that religious leaders across the country – from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, to Protestant, Southern Baptist and Jewish leaders – were leading a backlash to the protests, saying the nation should welcome the fleeing children.