Officials continue to probe for answers after plane carrying refugee children land in NEPA

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PITTSTON, TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Questions remain tonight regarding federally sponsored charter flights landing at the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton International Airport.

Federal and local officials say they’re trying to get more information regarding these flights.

The bi-county airport board held a special executive session to talk about the flight’s and two area congressmen met with federal officials to ask questions about the flights.

“Today’s session dealt with potential litigation potential legal issues,” said Tim McGinley- Airport Board Member.

Tim McGinley is chairman of the Luzerne County Council and is a member of the bi-county airport board. Which oversees the operations of the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton International Airport.

The board called a special executive session Wednesday to talk about federally sponsored charter flights that have and may land at the airport in the future.

“The fact that the FAA has certain guidelines very specific because we have those contracts with faa we must abide by them or we put the airport in jeopardy wich means all the flights that come out of this airport whether it be charter or commercial flights that many of our people use could be in jeopardy,” explained McGinley.

The I-Team confirmed Tuesday that the flights are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, especially its refugee resettlement office.

They flew from El Paso Texas to Wilkes-Barre, most of the passengers were unaccompanied children or teenagers who, according to the HHS, were being unified with a parent or a vetted sponsor.

Congressmen Matt Cartwright and Dan Meuser met held conference calls with HHS officials Wednesday to ask questions about the flights.

“That’s the rule they go to a host sponsor properly vetted they have to sign a contract they will tie up for immigration hearing. It looks like it’s a process that has been followed by several administrations now,” stated Matt Cartwright.

Congressman Dan Meuser issues a statement that reads in part.

“I instructed the department to notify my office of future flights and to verify that the passengers are in fact minors, that they have been vetted and tested for COVID-19 and to provide the final destinations of those on board,” explained Dan Meuser.

Congressman Cartwright says he has been told that the children on the planes have not been sent to local sponsors.

Most likely New York or the Philadelphia area again, more charters are expected to land here in the near future.

You can read Dan Meuser’s statement in part below:

I had a conference call with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to discuss the recent flights to Wilkes Barre-Scranton International Airport. HHS verified that they had organized flights to Wilkes Barre transporting unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants. The majority of the children are being released to family members while others are being sent to HHS contracted facilities. Upon being released from HHS custody, the minors will begin standard immigration proceedings.

HHS provided details on the agency`s protocol for processing and releasing unaccompanied minors from their custody. The agency conducts background checks on the minors as well as family members to whom they may be released. All minors receive vaccinations appropriate to their age, including against COVID-19, and are not transported unless they have tested negative for COVID-19.

My office has submitted questions in a letter to HHS and we are awaiting a response in writing from HHS as well as additional follow-up answers from our call today. I instructed the Department to notify my office of future flights and to verify that the passengers are in fact minors, that they have been vetted and tested for COVID-19, and to provide the final destinations of those on board. My office continues to closely monitor this situation and we are working to determine the best course of legislative action to increase transparency and allow state and local governments to have more authority in such circumstances.

Congressman Dan Meuser

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