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U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn says it was illegal to bar U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine from Fort Sill facility housing minors

At a Senate hearing, the Oklahoma Republican grills an Obama administration official about the tight control over facilities used to shelter minors streaming over the southern U.S. border.
by Chris Casteel Published: July 9, 2014

photo - Sen. Tom Coburn
Sen. Tom Coburn

— Sen. Tom Coburn told an Obama administration official Wednesday that it was illegal to bar U.S. Rep. James Bridenstine from the Fort Sill facility housing some of the unaccompanied minors who recently crossed the southern border into the United States.

“I will just tell you I think you made a grievous error in denying Congressman Bridenstine access to that facility,” Coburn, R-Muskogee, told Mark Greenberg, an acting assistant secretary with the Department of Health and Human Services, at a Senate hearing.

“And I don’t know who made the decision. But first of all, I think it was illegal to keep a member of Congress from visiting one of these camps. Regardless if they come at 3 o’clock in the morning, they should have access.”

Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, was turned away last week from the Fort Sill facility, which is currently caring for more than 1,000 minors called “unaccompanied alien children” by the U.S. government. The Health and Human Services Department is in charge of the facility at Fort Sill, a U.S. Army post in Lawton.

More on the immigrants being housed at Fort Sill:

Obama blamed, but 2008 bill set procedures for dealing with young illegal immigrants

Fallin faults 'lax policy' in children's immigration

The department has scheduled a media tour at the Fort Sill facility for Thursday, but participants can’t bring in recording devices, ask questions or interact with the children or staff. Bridenstine has a tour scheduled for Saturday.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and Gov. Mary Fallin have toured the facility.

Coburn and Greenberg had a brief exchange about how tightly the administration is controlling access to the facilities holding the minors, most of whom came from Central America. Fort Sill is one of three military bases that opened temporary housing last month.

Bridenstine demands "unfettered access" to Fort Sill... U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine says he was denied access to...

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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