June 28, 2019

Castro, Wyden, Van Hollen, Sanders Reintroduce Measure to Restore Oversight of Federal Facilities

Legislation Allows Members of Congress Immediate Access to Facilities Housing Migrant Children, Provides Avenue to Report Findings to the Public

WASHINGTON—Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., this week were joined by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to reintroduce legislation to allow members of Congress immediate access to federal facilities, including those under contract or lease, and to give members of Congress an avenue to report their findings. This legislation follows reports detailing horrific conditions for migrant children and families in government care.

“Trump and his administration have shown they can’t be trusted to protect and provide for migrant children’s basic needs. We’re talking soap, toothbrushes, food, medical care,” Wyden said. “The Trump administration is afraid of letting Congress and the American people see the full extent of its cruelty in these detention facilities, so we must force its hand.”

“Members of Congress are the eyes and ears of the American people. Their role is to ensure Americans’ tax dollars and will is being executed properly. In its second reintroduction, The Restoring Oversight for Members of Congress Act would provide members of Congress immediate access to these federal facilities at our border, including those under contract, and allow them to report their findings afterwards,” said Castro, Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Vice Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and a member of the House Intelligence and Education and Labor Committees. “Given Congress’ duty to conduct oversight of the executive branch, it’s critical that we can conduct inspections to ensure children already suffering trauma are, at a minimum, safe and taken care of. Though we have yet to change our immigration policies, we have a responsibility to ensure that these conditions are at least humane. No administration should have the power to declare federal, taxpayer-funded facilities off-limits to oversight.”

“I have visited the border, and I have seen the tragedy the President’s policies have created there. His family separation policy is a dark mark on our nation’s history. And his Justice Department has argued that toothbrushes, soap, and even sleep are not necessary for the wellbeing of children. It is clear that Congress cannot trust this Administration to do the right thing – and now more than ever that we need increased oversight over these facilities. We have a responsibility to the people we represent – and the entire country – to oversee these federal agencies, and this legislation will allow us to do just that. I urge my colleagues to move forward on this bill immediately – the need for action is dire,” said Van Hollen.

“The horrific conditions inside federal immigration facilities under the Trump administration are unacceptable,” said Sanders. “I am proud to cosponsor this bill to restore Congress’s constitutional oversight role over both a cruel and broken immigration system and a president who thinks he is above the law. We must ensure that no man, woman or child is mistreated by U.S. immigration authorities.”

The Restoring Oversight for Member of Congress Act, previously introduced in June 2018 following the Trump administration’s family separation policy, provides for members of Congress to obtain immediate access to all federal facilities to ensure elected representatives can conduct their oversight role without interference from the executive branch. The bill contains limited exceptions for national security reasons, and creates a process for members to access sensitive and secure facilities. The bill also calls for penalties if an agency denies a member access.

A copy of bill text is available here.

A one-page summary is available here.

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