June 28, 2018

Wyden, Castro, Van Hollen, Sanders Introduce 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, D.C. – Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Joaquin Castro, today were joined by Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to introduce the Restoring Oversight for Members of Congress Act in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. 

Following the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents and housing them in federal facilities across the nation, this legislation allows members of Congress immediate access to federal facilities, including those under contract or lease, and gives members of Congress an avenue to report their findings. The bill also calls for penalties if an agency denies a member access.

“Under the Trump administration’s zero-humanity immigration policy migrant children have been taken from their parents and locked away in federal facilities under spartan conditions. These facilities house vulnerable people, including minors, and it’s critical that Congress ensures the conditions are humane and appropriate, even if the policy is not,” Wyden and Castro said.

The bill 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.

Wyden and Castro continued: “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. The Restoring Oversight for Members of Congress Act would provide members of Congress immediate access to these federal facilities, including those under contract, and allow them to report their findings afterwards. Given Congress’ Constitutional 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 treated humanely. No administration should have the power to declare federal, taxpayer-funded facilities off-limits to oversight.”

“We have witnessed the heartbreaking immigration crisis at the border and the urgent need to reunite children with their families. But far too often, Members of Congress have been denied access to federal facilities holding these families and are unable to conduct on-the-ground investigations,” Van Hollen said. “In my own state of Maryland, the Administration has not responded to repeated requests for basic information about where children are being held and how many are in federal custody. This must change. We have a responsibility to the people we represent – and the entire country – to provide oversight of these federal agencies, and this legislation will allow us to do just that.”

This legislation is endorsed by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Demand Progress, and Immigration Hub.  

“Demand Progress Action is pleased that Sen. Wyden is leading the effort to ensure Members of Congress can exercise their constitutional oversight powers to inspect all federal facilities for compliance with the law and respect for fundamental human rights,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress & Demand Progress Action.

A one-page summary is available here.

Original cosponsors of the House legislation include: Reps. Karen Bass, CA-37, Hank Johnson, GA-04, G.K. Butterfield, NC-01, Donald Norcross, NJ-01, Sean Patrick Maloney, NY-18, Ben Ray Lujan, NM-03, James P. McGovern, MA-02, Michael Capuano, MA-07, Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC, Filemon Vela, TX-34, Darren Soto, FL-09, Albio Sires, NJ-08, Juan Vargas, CA-51, Cheri Bustos, IL-17, Salud Carbajal, CA-24, Jimmy Gomez, CA-34, Nydia Velazquez, NY-07, Pete Aguilar, CA-31, Vicente Gonzalez, TX-15, Marc Veasey, TX-33, J. Luis Correa, CA-46, Eric Swalwell, CA-15, Gene Green, TX-29, Adam Schiff, CA-28, Raul Ruiz, CA-36, Grace Napolitano, CA-32, Bill Foster, IL-11, Michelle Lujan Grisham, NM-01, Jose Serrano, NY-15.