Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), who was denied access earlier this month to a center where illegal immigrants were being held, said his “concerns were validated” by getting to see a holding center at Fort Sill over the weekend.
“There are a lot of children there that have suffered on the trek to the United States of America. We’re talking about cases where people were abused,” Bridenstine told Fox today. “One of the things that I thought was of interest is the fact that a lot of these children have either family members or friends in the United States that are here illegally and those are the folks that are paying coyotes and transnational criminal organizations in Mexico and other places to transport those children here. That is where the suffering is occurring.”
“When you pay criminal organizations to transport children, you’re putting your children in harm’s way. And of course, in many cases, it’s not just the children of illegal aliens in our country but it’s also just friends and relatives of illegal aliens already in our country.”
Bridenstine had originally tried to take pictures when he first attempted to access the illegal immigrants, but did not “push that issue” this time.
“Here’s what they told us: They said, ‘You can come on visit. You can’t ask questions. You can’t talk to the staff. You can’t talk to the contractors. You can’t talk to the children.’ We told them very clearly we will treat their restrictions the way the president treats the laws of this country. We will treat them as suggestions and that’s what we did,” the congressman said.
“And when we went in, they were very accommodating as a matter of fact. We did talk to the personnel that worked there. We talked to the medical staff and in fact, we talked to some of the children and heard some of their stories.”
Those stories, he said, were “horrific.”
If the smuggling organizations don’t get enough money, “your children can be subject to forced labor, to forced prostitution, sold in the slave trade and in many cases, death. There are mass graves in northern Mexico because somebody didn’t pay the right criminal organization.”
“The other thing that was concerning to me was how the children, once they’re at these — by the way, the children who make it there are the lucky ones. There are a lot who don’t make it there. And then once they’re there, how are they released? Who are they released to?” Bridenstine continued.
“What I found out was that a lot of them are being released to folks in the United States of America who are not legal citizens of our country. As such, it’s very difficult to do a criminal background check, if not impossible,” he said. When they are released, they get a date to come back for court. A lot of them don’t come back for court and they just go off into our country and they remain illegal residents.”
The congressman said he intends to keep visiting Fort Sill, where about 1,200 illegal immigrants are being held.
“This is too important of an issue,” Bridenstine said. “Children are being made to suffer. It’s federal policy that is causing this, of this administration. We’ve got to get it right.”