Democrats Furious After Trump Admin Bars Lawmakers’ Staff From Visiting Border Facilities
When staffers for congressional Democrats visited facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border last week for so-called “oversight inspections,” they were rude, disruptive and refused to follow directions.
So, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) barred them from entering the Customs and Border Protection facilities.
Now, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings is complaining that the DHS is punishing staffers after they found what he claims are serious issues at the centers.
“I am writing to express my deep concern that the Department of Homeland Security decided to block Committee staff from conducting visits to 11 detention facilities just days after previous staff inspections revealed potentially serious ongoing problems with the treatment of children and adults in DHS custody — including blocking visits to sites where the Inspector General warned about an ‘immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained,’” Cummings wrote in a letter on Thursday.
“[D]etainees at Border Patrol facilities expressed concern that toddlers — and in one case even an infant — were being fed burritos rather than age-appropriate food, young children were held in cold rooms without appropriate clothing, and parents were not given a sufficient number of diapers for their children,” Cummings detailed. “One detainee alleged that a Border Patrol agent told a child who had spilled soup that the child would not receive more food unless the child drank the spilled soup off the floor.”
Cummings said the “last-minute denial of access” adversely affects his committee’s “ability to conduct its oversight responsibility in an effective manner.”
The Maryland Democrat died allegations from border officials. “Committee staff were not ‘rude’ and never once refused to abide by instructions from agency officials,” Cummings wrote. “Committee staff comported themselves professionally at all times while defending the authority of Congress to conduct an independent investigation of these well-documented abuses.”
But the DHS says that’s not so.
“Sources told Fox News that DHS has revoked access to CBP facilities for the upcoming visit, citing staff behavior that “interfered” with law enforcement operations — including refusing to leave one site after their scheduled window, skipping some tours and being “rude” to officers. A DHS official said that ICE visits will still be allowed this week, but with a two-hour time limit, Fox News reported.
“Due to the operational burden placed on the field by their refusal to comply with instruction during last week’s STAFFDEL [staff delegation visit], CBP pulled the trip in which more site visits were to take place at CBP and ICE facilities this week,” a senior DHS official told Fox News in an email Wednesday. “DHS communicated to the committee that due to their conduct, CBP could not support visits from the committee this week.”
“During discussions between Department and Committee staff, however, the Committee staff repeatedly stated that they do not intend to abide by DHS guidelines,” Ciccone wrote in the letter obtained by Fox News. “In light of this, we are unable to accommodate your staff’s visit … unless we receive a firm commitment that the Committee and its staff will comply fully with all existing guidelines and policies.”
DHS Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs Christine Ciccone wrote to Cummings after the visit. “During discussions between Department and Committee staff, however, the Committee staff repeatedly stated that they do not intend to abide by DHS guidelines,” Ciccone wrote in the letter obtained by Fox News. “In light of this, we are unable to accommodate your staff’s visit … unless we receive a firm commitment that the Committee and its staff will comply fully with all existing guidelines and policies.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican and the House Oversight Committee’s ranking minority member, also wrote to Cummings, saying he “took direction from liberal special interests.”
“One aspect missing from your staff travel to date has been any interest in the well-being of, or resources provided to, the brave men and women who serve to secure our border,” Jordan wrote. “Several Border Patrol agents told us the nasty rhetoric from Democrats in Congress — one Member of this committee even likened them to Nazis — hurts morale and makes some agents reluctant to tell people what they do for a living.”