Health and Human Services officials will allow reporters to visit a military facility housing some of the immigrant children who have arrived at the southern border in recent weeks, but only if the media promises not to record anything, not to ask any questions during the tour, and not to talk to any of the staff members or children.
“This violates the First Amendment,” Representative Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.), who represents the congressional district containing the housing facility at Fort Sill, said of the HHS invitation to the media. “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.”
HHS attached seven rules “in order to protect the safety and privacy of the children” for the media who come to the tour, according to an HHS invitation released by Bridenstine’s office:
- No recording devices will be allowed
- No questions will be allowed during the tour
- No interacting with staff and children at the shelter
- We ask that your questions be provided via email or phone after the tour to Kenneth Wolfe
- HHS ACF public affairs will provide answers to your follow up questions as quickly as possible
- We will provide photos of the facility after the tour
- There will be no on-site interviews by HHS staff before or after the tour, all inquiries go to Kenneth Wolfe
Bridenstine was barred from entering the Fort Sill facility on July 1. He is trying to schedule a July 12 visit, in addition to unannounced visits that he will again attempt to make.
“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,” he said in a Monday morning statement.