District of Columbia — In a letter released Thursday, the House Oversight Committee blasted the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to block members of the committee from visiting detention facilities, a decision coming after members visited facilities last week and cited numerous issues they observed and were told about during their visit. In a letter from House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings addressed to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, he outlined different complaints given to members and allegations made during their visit.
According to the letter, detainees alleged that toddlers and an infant were being fed inappropriate foods for their developmental age, children were being held in cold rooms without appropriate clothing, and that parents didn’t have a sufficient amount of essential supplies for their children such as diapers. Further, detainees expressed concerns regarding rotten food, inadequate access to medical care, voluntary work that payed an average of $1 to $1.50 per day, and the length of their detention. The letter also addresses allegations made by DHS that members were “rude” and didn’t follow instructions from officials, saying that, “Committee staff were not “rude” and never once refused to abide by instructions from agency officials. Committee staff comported themselves professionally at all times while defending the authority of Congress to conduct an independent investigation into these well-documented abuses.”
On August 26th, the Department of Homeland Security barred members of the House Oversight Committee from all 11 Customs and Border Protection facilities, citing that members were uncooperative with staff and didn’t follow itineraries issued by CBP. The decision was made as some members were in en route to facilities and after DHS confirmed their visits. DHS followed up with additional restrictions limiting visits to two hours and barring translators from joining the staff on tours. DHS has not responded to requests for comment from Politically DC.