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NEWS: Politics

Bridenstine Protests Restrictions On VIsiting Immigrant Children At Ft. Sill

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Representative Jim Bridenstine is interviewed on 6 in the Morning. Representative Jim Bridenstine is interviewed on 6 in the Morning.
Rep. Bridenstine was denied access to the Ft. Sill facility earlier this month. Rep. Bridenstine was denied access to the Ft. Sill facility earlier this month.

Representative Jim Bridenstine, Oklahoma First District, said he plans to continue to make unannounced visits to the Ft. Sill housing facility where over 1,000 immigrant children are being housed.

He also says restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services violate Constitutional Rights.

Bridenstine said he was denied access last week when he went to the facility housing "Unaccompanied Alien Children" (UAC) on July 1.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services staff contacted the representative after denying him entrance, offering him a tour on July 12. He was previously told he could visit on July 21, according to the congressman.

"Ordinary Americans have a right to know what is happening in these facilities, how the children are being treated, and what is being done to stop this human tragedy," Bridenstine said in a news release Monday.

7/3/2014 Related Story: Rep. Bridenstine Denied Access To Child Immigrant Facility, Blames Obama For Crisis

"It is unacceptable that any representative of the people be limited to pre-planned, showcase visits to a facility so critical to the well-being of children."

In a follow-up email Monday morning, Bridenstine said the media has been invited to a tour of the facility with the following restrictions:

  • No recording devices allowed
  • No questions allowed during the tour
  • No interacting with staff and children
  • No photos other than those provided by HHS
  • No on-site interviews

The congressman quotes an HHS Administration email to media invited to a Fort Sill tour for the above restrictions. The email invites members of the media to a 40-minute tour scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, July 10.

"The idea of no recording devices, no questions, and no interactions is not acceptable. This violates the 1st Amendment," Bridenstine said.

"This is not transparent. HHS is trying to muzzle the media and hide the human tragedy that has resulted directly from the Administration's failure to enforce the law."

Bridenstine blamed President Barack Obama's failure to enforce border security for the situation.

"Human suffering is escalating because of the failure to enforce the law. The solution is to enforce the laws and stop illegal immigration," Bridenstine said.

The congressman said he plans to take HHS up on its July 12 tour offer but that he also plans to come at other times, comparing his trips to DHS unannounced visits to foster families.

He also said he plans to bring staff, interpreters and legal counsel and "responsible journalists" to the facility.

"On each occasion, I expected to be admitted to the UAC facility without delay and treated professionally and with courtesy," he said in a letter to Sonja Nesbitt, of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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