The Department of Health and Human Services has told reporters they can tour a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children, but can’t use any recording devices, can’t take pictures, and can’t ask any questions of children or staff.
Members of the media have received an invitation from HHS that says the tour will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Fort Sill detention center in Oklahoma. But the invitation is very similar to an invitation that members of Congress received last week, and limits the ability of those taking the tour to interact with anyone in the building.
“In order to protect the safety and privacy of the children, the following rules for participation will be required:
“- No recording devices will be allowed
“- No questions will be allowed during the tour
“- No interacting with staff and children at the shelter
“- We ask that your questions be provided via email or phone after the tour to Kenneth Wolfe
“- HHS ACF public affairs will provide answers to your follow up questions as quickly as possible
“- We will provide photos of the facility after the tour
“- There will be no on-site interviews by HHS staff before or after the tour, all inquiries go to Kenneth Wolfe.” Wolfe is a public affairs official at HHS’s Administration for Children and Families.
HHS said the purpose of the tour is to “show members of the press the interior of the shelter and explain the care we provide while these children remain in our custody.”
Republicans are increasingly frustrated with the inability of anyone to assess what’s going on in the various detention centers around the country that are housing the more than 52,000 children that have tried to cross into the United States this year.
On his very first full day in office, Obama said he would make transparency a “touchstone” in his administration:
Over the weekend, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) warned HHS that he would make several unannounced visits to the Ft. Sill facility in the coming weeks and months, and would bring members of Congress, reporters and others to interact with facility staff and detainees.
Bridenstine was told last week he could not enter the Ft. Sill facility, and that he would need to make an appointment for July 21 or later.