WASHINGTON, DC – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, and Kurt Schrader, released the following statement upon a refusal by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement to allow members of Congress and their staffs the opportunity tour an Oregon facility housing children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexican border:
“Our congressional staffs recently requested the Office of Refugee Resettlement permit them to tour the children’s facility in Oregon, as did Senators Merkley and Wyden and Congresswoman Bonamici the week before. Both requests were denied. Now, HHS has informed us that it has a new policy in place in which the administration will notify Congress of acceptable dates, times, and locations for tours and no other tours will be approved. This approach makes a mockery of the checks and balances envisioned in our constitution.
“With each passing day, it becomes clearer and clearer that HHS is desperately trying to prevent congressional oversight of how these vulnerable children are being treated. Handpicking the dates, times and facilities of congressional visits is a recipe for dog-and-pony shows, not legitimate oversight. This is completely unacceptable, particularly when family separations may soon resume. Congress should immediately pass the Congressional Access to Children’s Detention Facilities Act, which would require the administration to grant oversight access with 24 hours’ notice. In addition, we are demanding an immediate meeting with Secretary Azar to discuss why the administration is inventing bogus rationales and red tape in order to prevent oversight of children’s living conditions.”