Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for Governor, says it’s time to form a non-partisan “Iowa Coalition of Mercy” to discuss how the state can respond to the “humanitarian crisis” of unaccompanied kids from Central America who’re walking into the U.S.

“I’m not saying that we be a sanctuary state. I’m not saying that we locate them up here,” Hatch says. “I think the first step is to create the dialogue.”

On Monday, Republican Governor Terry Branstad said he has “empathy” for the children, but Branstad does not want them sent to Iowa. Hatch says Iowa has a “long history” of “providing direct help” to refugees.

“Governor Ray, a Republican governor, got not only Iowa to open up to refugees of southeast Asia, he helped create a sense that Iowa is a welcoming place,” Hatch says. “I would hate to think that we’ve come so far only to turn our backs on the possibility of helping children who are in our country, on the border, who are refugees.”

Hatch says Iowa’s political and religious leaders as well as representatives of Iowa businesses and non-profit groups should meet to try to figure out what resources Iowans can deliver to help keep the children healthy and safe.

“Can we provide food and medical care, temporary shelter?” Hatch asks. “Are there other things we can provide these children right now.”

Another initiative, called 1000 Kids for Iowa, was launched this week by a Des Moines businessman who’s hoping to come up with a list of Iowa communities, churches and individual Iowans willing to house at least one of the unaccompanied immigrant children until political leaders decide whether to deport them back to Central America.