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Department of Homeland Security officials are stonewalling lawmakers who try to make unannounced visits to immigrant detention facilities throughout the country and are closing off public roads along the U.S.-Mexico border in an effort to keep journalists from reporting on the growing illegal immigration crisis, federal law enforcement officials told TheBlaze.
The officials said senior supervisors have made scheduling visits ahead of time mandatory at detention facilities, turned back officials from unannounced visits, and that Border Patrol agents have been forced to clean up facilities and transfer illegal aliens from unauthorized holding cells before they are inspected by lawmakers. Reporters have also been stopped by DHS officials from traveling along public access roads near the Rio Grande, where most of illegal immigrant children and groups are crossing into the U.S.
Border Patrol agents and police in Mission, Texas, rush down a public access road in the Rio Grande Valley to intercept a group of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. The roads are now being monitored and journalists are being asked to leave the area by federal law enforcement officials. (Photo: Sara A. Carter/TheBlaze)
The media crackdown along the Rio Grande happened shortly after TheBlaze visited the region last month and traveled along some of the more secluded roads along the river's edge. TheBlaze witnessed dozens of illegal immigrants turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents after making the crossing into the United States and interviewed many of them before they were taken away.
While in McAllen, Texas, TheBlaze made multiple requests to have access to the facilities where illegals are being held. Border Patrol spokesman Joe Gutierrez said all requests needed to be approved by senior DHS officials in Washington, D.C., and all were denied. A tour of a facility in Brownsville, Texas, was given to reporters who were forbidden from speaking to agents or immigrants. TheBlaze chose not to participate in the tour.
Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera said supervisors in his sector cleared more than 200 illegal immigrants being detained in the sally port, a garage used to load and unload illegal immigrants, last Wednesday when a group of bipartisan senior lawmakers made a planned visit to the McAllen Border Patrol station.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) and House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.) traveled to the Rio Grande Valley Sector to inspect the facilities where the majority of illegal immigrant children and adults are being detained.
Miriam and her son Daniel, 1, took seven days by bus and car to reach the U.S.-Mexico border from Honduras. She said they paid a trafficker more than $1000 to make the crossing; Miriam turned herself into Border Patrol officials along the Rio Grande Valley sector. They were being processed on one of the public access roads that has since been closed off by federal law enforcement to journalists attempting to report in the region. (Photo: Sara A. Carter/TheBlaze)
"They don't want people to know what's going on here, or for that matter anywhere, when it comes to the surge of illegal aliens and when [Congress] went to visit, the place was cleared out," said Cabrera, who is the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council’s Local 3077. "The night before the group of lawmakers arrived the senior supervisors loaded up a couple hundred people being held in the sally port and shipped them out to Laredo. If everything is so fine and dandy, why not let the lawmakers in just the way it is?"
DHS officials in Washington, D.C., did not immediately return phone call requests for comment. More than 47,000 unaccompanied children have crossed into the U.S. illegally this year. Up to 90,000 are expected to cross into the country by year's end.
Cabrera, along with several other Border Patrol agents who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said the Obama administration is covering up the difficult working conditions that Border Patrol agents are confronted with, as well as the detrimental situation to the nation as the flow of illegal aliens continues to increase.
"It even frustrated some of the mid-level management," Cabrera said of the order by DHS officials to move the illegals the night before the congressional visit. "How are we supposed to get any help out here if we're hiding the facts from the people who are supposed to be here to help us?"
The clamp down by DHS on information and access in the Rio Grande Valley is also being being felt at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors, mainly from Central America, are being housed. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) said Monday that he was denied access to the facility housing the children when he made an unplanned visit on July 1.
Brindenstine said he was told by a manager from the Department of Health and Human Services that the next opportunity for him to visit would be July 21, but was later told that a July 12 tour was possible.
The congressman sent a letter to HHS officials Monday protesting the administration's demand that visits be planned and prescheduled.
"It is unacceptable that any representative of the people be limited to pre-planned, showcased visits to a facility so critical to the well-being of children," he wrote. “Ordinary Americans have a right to know what is happening in these facilities, how the children are being treated, and what is being done to stop this human tragedy."
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