The White House remains in damage control mode.
Desperately trying to contain the widening damage from the humanitarian crisis Trump has created by separating families at the U.S. border, the Trump administration has announced that concerned members of Congress won't be allowed to talk to children housed at the sprawling detention centers.
Lawmakers also won't be able to even visit the centers unless they give two weeks notice.
"In an email sent to all congressional offices on Wednesday, a senior HHS official says lawmakers are allowed to visit federal facilities holding children who have been separated from their families but are not allowed to interact with them or take any pictures of them or the surrounding conditions," the Huffington Post reports.
The attempt at damage control also comes after House Republicans on Wednesday shut down a morning session in Congress when children gathered on the floor of the House to highlight the Trump administration’s inhumane decision to separate families at the border..
In a way, the new gag order isn't surprising because Democratic lawmakers have been successful in raising awareness about Trump's abusive tactic by visiting the centers.
From a news coverage perspective, the current scandal initially made headlines when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) tried to enter a detention facility in Brownsville, Texas, on June 3. He live-streamed his arrival at the center and the government's subsequent refusal to grant him entry.
I was barred entry. Asked repeatedly to speak to a supervisor—he finally came out and said he can’t tell us anything. Police were called on us.
Children should never be ripped from their families & held in secretive detention centers. RT if you agree this is WRONG. pic.twitter.com/GVCuXNjR8d
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) June 4, 2018
And it was there that Merkley articulated the human damage that was associated with Trump's so-called 'zero tolerance' initiative.
"This is not zero tolerance. This is zero humanity," Merkley stressed. "It's damaging children, putting them through a horrific experience in a land where they know no one, and they don't know where they're being sent and they don't understand why they're being sent."
The following day, Merkley was able to visit the facility — and after seeing it, he relayed a shocking revelation. "They have big cages made out of fencing and then wire and nets stretched across the top of them so people can't climb out of them," he reported.
That has since all been confirmed.
Just this week, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) was banned from entering a Miami-area facility.
"The Trump administration’s actions today to block us from checking on these kids is inexcusable," Nelson tweeted. "They are obviously hiding something.
Nelson tried to visit the center after it was revealed that nearly 100 children separated from their parents had been sent to the Florida location.
On Wednesday, in search of political cover after being pummeled relentlessly by religious and human rights advocates, Trump signed an executive order that will do little to restore the rights to the undocumented immigrants.
It's more important than ever for those detention centers to be transparent — and the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to stop that from happening.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.