By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
Concerns and questions about a comment state Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, made last week about 40 Guatemalans on a plane landing at the Northeast Wyoming Regional Airport have been mostly answered.
Bear made the comment during a committee meeting of the Wyoming Legislature during a debate about Medicaid expansion. He said he brought it up in reference to how many people in Wyoming would actually benefit from expanding the federal program.
He never used the word “refugee,” but did reference an ongoing political debate over U.S. immigration policy and “what we know about the border policy in the United States right now …”
“It’s obviously a concern when we’re trying to determine the numbers (for) what’s happening in our state,” Bear later told Cowboy State Daily.
‘Nothing Out Of The Ordinary’
Michael Pearlman, spokesman for Gov. Mark Gordon, said Bear asked the governor to look into the matter, which his office did.
Pearlman said it was determined that only standard commercial flights arrived at the Gillette airport the time in question, and the passengers on those commercial flights all came through security and had government-approved identification to travel.
“Nothing out of the ordinary appeared to have occurred,” Pearlman said.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said Bear’s comment was a red herring to distract from the issue of expanding Medicaid in Wyoming.
“When you literally have no rational argument to possibly justify a policy choice that leads to the suffering of 20,000 Wyomingites ongoing for almost a decade now with no end in sight and no alternatives available, you might as well blame it on folks from another country and immigration and all of the other inflammatory, hot-button, fear uncertainty, doubt, demo-gospel issues they have at their disposal,” Rothfuss said.
Still Not Convinced
The findings of the governor’s office that there was nothing to Bear’s immigration concerns hasn’t done much to dissuade the Gillette Republican.
Bear said he has heard reports of illegal border crossers who have been provided several items from the federal government to accommodate their travel.
“Is it a stretch to believe that such persons would be provided an ID?” he questioned. “I believe this deserves further investigation.”
Biden’s ID Cards
Last July, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new identification card be issued to immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border that would allow U.S. immigration officials and migrants to more quickly access their files.
These Secure Docket Cards are not equivalent to other forms of government-approved identification as they are not allowed to be presented to Transportation Security Administration agents to allow them to travel by plane or to access certain state benefit programs.
They are intended to reduce paperwork and permit illegal aliens to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) virtually instead of physically reporting to an ICE office.
Still Wants An Explanation
Bear said it still has not been established why the Guatemalans, which multiple sources confirm numbers about 20, were on the plane and where they were going.
Campbell County Commissioner Del Shelstad told the Gillette News Record on Monday he believes the issue is closed.
“I know there’s a lot of questions and a lot of theories, but at some point when you start asking people why they’re here and what they’re doing, it’s infringing on their rights,” he said.