Ft. Sill, Oklahoma- Ft. Sill, Oklahoma is one of three facilities in the U.S. currently housing the unaccompanied immigrant children who have been flooding across the U.S. southern border for weeks. Many of these children, as we have reported are from South America and are coming here without parents or adults.
Currently, the Obama Administration policy is that after these young people are apprehended on the border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the children are transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for transport. According to Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, these children are then placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) until released to a so-called “sponsor” in the U.S.
Wanting to see these children first hand, Congressman Bridenstine visited the facility at Ft. Sill where these children are being housed.
“After my visit (Tuesday) with the base commander, I approached the barracks where the children are housed. A new fence has been erected by HHS, completely surrounding the barracks and covered with material to totally obscure the view. Every gate is chained closed.” says Bridenstine.
What was even more surprising was that the U.S. Congressman was told that he could not enter the facility and that he would have to make an appointment to come back in three weeks.
“I approached a security guard and asked to speak with the manager of the facility. The guard called his supervisor who said no visitors were allowed. I asked if they were aware that I am a Member of Congress. Eventually the manager came out and said that I would have to go through HHS legislative affairs and that the first chance to visit would be July 21st.”
The move by HHS seemed not only unusual but extremely inappropriate. As a member of Congress why would Rep. Bridenstine be denied access?
“What are they trying to hide? 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” says Bridenstine.
The Congressman has now been joined by others such as U.S. Congressman Thomas Massie, calling the denial of Congressional Representatives to these facilities as ridiculous.
“There is no excuse for denying a Federal Representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held. Any Member of Congress should have the legal authority to visit a federal youth detention facility without waiting three weeks.” says Bridenstine.