Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center

Florida Democratic Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzLawmakers call on VA to remove swastikas from headstones in veterans cemeteries Bipartisan group of lawmakers calls on DeVos to issue guidance on child abuse reporting amid pandemic Florida election supervisors urge DeSantis to 'act immediately' to make voting safe amid pandemic MORE, Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former NIC Director Greg Treverton rips US response; WHO warns of 'immediate second peak' if countries reopen too quickly Treasury has not disbursed B in airline support: oversight panel We can't afford to let local news die MORE and Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDebbie Mucarsel-PowellThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary Coral Princess cruise ship with cases of coronavirus docks in Miami MORE said they were denied access to a facility holding unaccompanied immigrant children. 

The members of Congress said in a joint statement from their offices that they were told they would be "denied entry to the refugee resettlement facility in Homestead, [Fla.]," which they planned to visit Monday, "despite a new law mandating Congressional access there, and a recent announcement of plans to massively expand beds at the site amid lingering concerns over inadequate staffing, space and other services there."

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In their statement, the lawmakers also expressed concerns about the facility.

"During our last visit to Homestead, we witnessed children living in cramped, prison-like conditions," they said. "The idea to force even more children into an already full detention facility is not only unsafe, but is cruel and violates basic tenets of human decency." 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed the denial of the lawmakers' visit in a statement to The Hill.

“We have had significant interest for facility visits. To ensure a facility visit does not interfere with the safety and well-being of our [children], we require a minimum two-week notification at the convenience and availability of the facility. This has been policy since 2015,” the department said.

The Hill has also reached out to the Office of Refugee Resettlement for comment. 

HHS announced last Monday that it would expand the number of beds at the Homestead facility from 2,350 to 3,200 beginning in mid-April. 

Wasserman Schultz and then-Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonLobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.) were previously denied entry to the facility.  

--This report was updated on April 8 at 10:20 a.m.

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Dem lawmakers will attempt tour of detention facility they say turned them away