The Department of Homeland Security barred Democratic staff members from visiting Customs and Border Protection facilities due to “rude” and “disruptive” behavior during scheduled tours last week.
Fox News reported that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., sent members of his staff to conduct inspections of CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement centers this week.
“Due to the operational burden placed on the field by their refusal to comply with instruction during last week’s STAFFDEL [staff delegation visit], CBP pulled the trip in which more site visits were to take place at CBP and ICE facilities this week,” a senior DHS official told Fox News on Wednesday.
A DHS official said ultimately the ICE visits were allowed to proceed but with a two-hour time limit, and one had already taken place Tuesday.
DHS Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs Christine Ciccone wrote a letter to Cummings to explain the department’s reasons for canceling the tours of the CPB facilities.
“During discussions between Department and Committee staff, however, the Committee staff repeatedly stated that they do not intend to abide by DHS guidelines,” Ciccone wrote in the letter, which Fox News obtained.
“In light of this, we are unable to accommodate your staff’s visit … unless we receive a firm commitment that the Committee and its staff will comply fully with all existing guidelines and policies,” Ciccone added.
She informed Cummings the staff’s attempts to “conduct interviews and take photographs” without limitations were “a significant deviation” from DHS policy and “could jeopardize” the department’s ability to meet legal obligations.
Other disruptive behavior included refusing to leave a facility in Yuma, Arizona, after an hourlong visit, which was to be the first of multiple 45-minute tours of facilities scheduled for the day.
“This left agents in a position where they were waiting on staff to show and then they did not show at all,” a DHS official said.
Similar failure to follow instructions also reportedly occurred with another part of the delegation in the San Diego sector, where some staffers missed part of a border facility tour and apparently crossed into Mexico.
House Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan of Ohio, in a letter to Cummings, said the crossing into Mexico occurred “without consultation from the Department of State.”
The congressman added that staffers were “rude” and “dismissive” of law enforcement officials throughout the visit.
“Unfortunately, at your apparent direction, Democrats refused to listen to law-enforcement instructions and made demands at the facilities ‘against the express written notice DHS had provided earlier,'” Jordan wrote Cummings.
A Democratic committee aide described the lawmaker’s letter as “riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations.”
“The real news here is that the Department of Homeland Security abruptly canceled future inspections and denied Committee investigators access to 11 CBP facilities as soon as Committee investigators began confirming with detainees some of the very same problems identified by the independent Inspector General,” the aide told Fox News.
“It appears that the Ranking Member [Jordan] would rather defend the Trump Administration than conduct meaningful independent oversight,” the aide added.
Last month, Cummings screamed at acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan during a House Oversight Committee hearing after the secretary said his agency was doing its “level best” under challenging circumstances to deal with the surge of migrants at the southern border.
“What does that mean?!” he yelled, saying children were in dirty diapers and unable to take showers.
President Donald Trump responded on Twitter, “Rep. Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA.”
“As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded,” Trump continued. “Cumming(s’) District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.”
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