Illegal immigrant children are telling "horrific" stories about their journey to the United States from Central America through Mexico, said Rep. Jim Bridenstine.
The Oklahoma Republican told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" that he toured a facility at Fort Sill over the weekend in his home state where 1,200 illegal immigrants are being held. As Bridenstine told Newsmax TV
on July 7, he was originally denied access on July 1 to the facility.
"The stories are horrific. There are a good number of those children who were abused on the way to the United States by these transnational criminal organizations that have to be paid in order to get them across," Bridenstine said Monday.
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He said he did not "push that issue" about taking a camera into the facility, but did speak to many of the children, despite instructions from federal officials not to ask questions.
"They said, 'You can come on a 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 [President Barack Obama] treats the laws of this country. We will treat them as suggestions. And that's what we did," he said.
Many of the children "suffered on the trek to the United States" at the hands of the "coyotes and transnational criminal organizations in Mexico" who transported them, Bridenstine said. Because of the many hazards in the journey, he said the children who made it to the United States were "the lucky ones."
"There are a lot who don't make it there," he said. "If you don't pay [the traffickers] enough money, your children can be subject to forced labor, to forced prostitution, sold in the slave trade."
Bridenstine said some children died during the trip, and described "mass graves in northern Mexico" for children because someone "didn't pay the right criminal organization."
It is important for lawmakers to "solve the crisis," Bridenstine said, but he questioned the $3.7 billion Obama had requested from Congress to handle the surge of illegal immigrants.
"We don't want to just expand the current programs that are leading to the crisis," he said. "This is too important of an issue. Children are being made to suffer. It's federal policy that is causing this of this administration. We've got to get it right."
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