Congressman Jim Bridenstine was denied access yesterday to the HHS facility at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma currently housing up to 1,200 unaccompanied alien children (UAC) who illegally crossed the southern border into the United States.
Congressman 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."
The Health and Human Services (HHS) official who appears to be in charge of the facility told Congressman Bridenstine he could schedule an appointment for July 21. HHS Deputy Director of the Office of Public Affairs, Ken Wolfe, would not take the Congressman's phone call. The Congressman was told to send Mr. Wolfe an email as that was the preferred method of communication. Congressman Bridenstine's email to Mr. Wolfe included this press release.
“After my visit today 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.
“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.
“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."
Ft. Sill is one of three facilities in the U.S. currently housing the unaccompanied alien children. The Administration policy is that after they 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, and 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.