Lawmaker slams 'showcase' tours of detention centers

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) on Monday slammed the Obama administration for giving "showcase tours" of the detention facilities that are dealing with the influx of immigrant children across the border.

The freshman lawmaker was recently denied entry to a facility in Oklahoma by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and said lawmakers are not being given "unfettered access," even when they are allowed inside.

"What I would say though is that these are showcase, preplanned and managed tours," he said on "Fox and Friends." "It is very clear who the members of Congress can talk to and — and what the staff and contract staff are allowed to say. This is — this is not unfettered access."

ADVERTISEMENT
Bridenstine made the comment after HHS announced it plans to give lawmakers a tour later this week of a facility set up at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio. 

Bridenstine issued a scathing statement last week after he was denied access to a detention facility in Fort Sill, Okla., that is housing more than 1,000 children who crossed the border illegally. At the time, the earliest tour date was July 21, he 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," he said in a statement last week. 

Bridenstine, later Monday, accepted an invitation to tour the facility on Saturday. He also announced he would make a series of unscheduled visits in the future and expected to be granted entry. 

He blasted the department for rules governing a separate tour of the Oklahoma facility scheduled for the media on Thursday. He called on the media to reject the limits, which do not allow interaction with the staff or children, recording devices or pictures. The department has granted four similar media tours. 

HHS has said it has given five tours of three facilities so far to elected officials. According to the department, it would continue to schedule tours for "any officials who request them." 

Fort Still was one of three facilities set up by HHS to house the huge influx of unaccompanied minors crossing over Texas-Mexico border. More than 52,000 children — mostly from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador — have been apprehended this fiscal year.

Republicans blame the influx on President Obama's deportation policies, arguing they have encouraged people to send their children across the border.

— Updated 2:50 p.m.