Republican representative Carlos Curbelo said Friday that he was “outraged” at being refused entry to a government shelter housing immigrant children despite setting up his visit in advance.
“Tried to visit an #ImmigrantChildren shelter today. Visit had been confirmed with local operators for over a week,” Curbelo wrote on Twitter Friday. “All protocols to request, schedule & get clearance were followed, and yet last night was told by @HHSGov staff in Washington I would be refused entry.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave the “excuse” last month that “protocol” must be followed for such a visit, the Florida congressman wrote in another tweet, which added that he was “outraged” at the incident.
Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have attempted to visit shelters for detained immigrant children in recent weeks, including Democratic senator Jeff Merkley. Merkley and five others showed up at the Southwest Key Casa Padre children’s shelter in Texas early last month, and were asked to leave by police. The Oregon lawmaker said his staff, much like Curbelo’s, had called beforehand to arrange the visit.
“They do not want members of Congress to see what’s going on inside. They do not want the public to see what’s going on inside,” Merkley said on a Facebook livestream as he waited outside the facility.
“Thankfully for the safety, security and dignity of the children being cared for there, they were denied access,” a spokesperson for the HHS Administration for Children and Families told ABC News regarding the visit. “No one who arrives unannounced at one of our shelters demanding access to the children in our care will be permitted, even those claiming to be U.S. senators.”
Curbelo said that he will now back a bill by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) which would require HHS to allow members of Congress to visit immigrant children in government custody.
“Executive must not obstruct the legislative branch’s Constitutional authority and responsibility to conduct oversight,” Curbelo wrote. “Blocking us from doing so only encourages suspicion you have something to hide.”
Around 3,000 children have been separated from the adults with whom they crossed the border following the implementation of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration-enforcement policy, which aims to prosecute all adults who immigrate to the U.S. illegally.