An Oklahoma congressman says he was denied access to a Health and Human Services housing facility for unaccompanied minors in his own state.
Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine revealed Wednesday that he was not allowed to view an HHS facility housing approximately 1,200 unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, on Tuesday.
“There is no excuse for denying a Federal Representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held,” Bridenstine said in a statement.
According to Bridenstine’s office, an HHS official told the congressman he could schedule an appointment for July 21. The congressman took issue with the wait.
“Any Member of Congress should have the legal authority to visit a federal youth detention facility without waiting three weeks,” he said.
Bridenstine subsequently followed up with HHS Deputy Director of the Office of Public Affairs, Ken Wolfe, requesting to view the facility.
“What are they trying to hide?” Bridenstine wrote in an email, released by his office, to Wolfe. “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 the HHS facilities housing unaccompanied minors detained illegally crossing the southwest border. Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors — the vast majority from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — have been detained, creating what the Obama administration has deemed a “humanitarian situation.”