Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) said Wednesday that he was prevented from entering an immigration detainee facility by the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the facility.
Bridenstine said he tried to enter the building at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma on Tuesday, but was told by HHS officials that he would have to make an appointment. The earliest he could visit was July 21.
“What are they trying to hide?” he asked. “Do they not want the children to speak with members of Congress? As a Navy pilot, I have been involved in operations countering illicit human trafficking. I would like to know to whom these children are being released.”
Bridenstine added that senior HHS officials would not take his call, and that he was told to send an email instead.
“There is no excuse for denying a federal representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” he said. “Any member of Congress should have the legal authority to visit a federal youth detention facility without waiting three weeks.”
Under current law, unaccompanied immigrant children are required to be placed in the custody of HHS, until they can be released to a relative or guardian pending a deportation court hearing.
Current law also prohibits border officials from immediately deporting children when they come from countries that don’t border the United States. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to consider legislation to change that law, in an effort to speed up the process of deporting these children.