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Bridenstine demands "unfettered access" to Fort Sill facility for children

WASHINGTON _ Rep. Jim Bridenstine has put the Obama administration on notice that he plans to make recurring visits to the Fort Sill facility housing some of the unaccompanied alien children who have been streaming across the U.S. border from Central America.

Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, released a letter Monday morning that he wrote to an official, Sonja Nesbitt, with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is operating facilities on three military bases giving temporary housing to the children.

In the letter, Bridenstine, who was denied access to the Fort Sill facility last week, says he has received approval to visit on Saturday and that he will visit the southwest Oklahoma post then.

He also says, “I plan to make multiple visits to the (Unaccompanied Alien Children) facility at Fort Sill; the tragedy that is occurring requires unfettered access … My visits will be recurring and may include other members of Congress. On each occasion, I expect to be admitted to the UAC facility without delay and treated professionally and courtesy.”

In an interview Monday, Bridenstine also criticized a media tour scheduled for Thursday at the Fort Sill facility. The guidelines for the tour, being organized by the Health and Human Services Department, include:  media members can’t make recordings of any kind, ask questions or interact with children and staff.

“This is unsatisfactory,” Bridenstine said, adding that the media shouldn’t agree to the restrictions.

Contractors at the facilities have had to sign an agreement with the government not to talk about anything, and that applies to members of Congress, he said.

The Administration for Children and Families released a statement last week in reference to Bridenstine’s attempted visit. Here is that statement:

“We have been facilitating tours of our temporary shelters at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme and Fort Sill as frequently as possible without disrupting our ability to properly care for the children as part of this humanitarian situation.

“In addition to four media tours, HHS has provided five tours for approximately 55 local, state and federal elected officials who had requested the opportunity to observe the facilities, meet the staff and interact with the children.

“We will continue to schedule these tours of temporary shelters on a regular basis with any officials who request them.”


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Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›