Despite a new law allowing Congressional access to a shelter for migrant children in Homestead, Florida, three South Florida congresswomen were verbally denied access by the Department of Health and Human Services on Monday, the Miami Herald reports. U.S. Democratic Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell say that they plan to tour the Homestead shelter despite the Trump administration's objections and orders not to.
HHS confirmed denying the political officials access.
“We have had significant interest for facility visits. To ensure a facility visit does not interfere with the safety and well-being of our [children], we require a minimum two-week notification at the convenience and availability of the facility. This has been policy since 2015,” the department told the newspaper.
But Schultz, Shalala, and Mucarsel-Powell object, arguing that the HHS's attempt to deny their entry is "illegal" and goes against Section 234 of bill 115-245. The 2019 Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Act amended this year states that Congressional officials can't be stopped from “entering, for the purpose of conducting oversight, any U.S. facility used for maintaining custody of or otherwise housing unaccompanied alien children.”
HHS did not reply to multiple inquiries to address this rebuttal.
“During our last visit to Homestead, we witnessed children living in cramped, prison-like conditions,” the Congresswomen said in a joint statement earlier this year. “The idea to force even more children into an already full detention facility is not only unsafe, but is cruel and violates basic tenets of human decency.”