WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine was denied access Tuesday to the Fort Sill facility being used to house unaccompanied minors who have illegally crossed the U.S. border, the congressman said Wednesday.
Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, went to the Health and Human Services Department facility at the U.S. Army post in southwestern Oklahoma but was not allowed to enter. He was told he should make an appointment by emailing a department official and should expect to wait about three weeks.
Bridenstine said, “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.”
Fort Sill is one of three Defense Department properties being used to accommodate the huge influx of minors entering the country without parents or guardians. The Obama administration has said most are fleeing violence in three Central American countries and are being taken to the border by organized crime members.
Gov. Mary Fallin and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, visited the Fort Sill facility June 20, a few days after it began accepting some of the unaccompanied children. The administration has said the barracks could eventually hold up to 1,200 minors.
“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,” Bridenstine said Wednesday.
More on the immigrants being housed at Fort Sill:
“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.
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What are they trying to hide? ... I would like to know to whom these children are being released.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine,