Lawmakers are now banned from speaking with migrant children who are held at detention centers after being separated from their parents, according to a new Department of Heath and Human Services (HHS) directive sent to congressional offices on Wednesday.
The directive also states that lawmakers must give two weeks notice before traveling to one of the immigrant detention centers, and that they will be stopped from entering if they do not give the advance notice.
HuffPost first reported on the directive.
“To protect the privacy and vulnerability of children in its care, we cannot allow visitors to record or photograph anything within the facility property, nor are visitors allowed to interact with the children,” Sara Morse, HHS’s deputy assistant secretary for legislation, states in the email obtained by The Hill.
The department is allowing lawmakers to go on scheduled tours of certain facilities without providing two weeks notice, but they must RSVP 24 hours ahead of the visit, the email reads.
Lawmakers have made several surprise visits to immigration detention centers in recent weeks, after the Trump administration implemented a policy separating immigrant children from their parents.
Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by PhRMA – Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback Senate passes 6B defense bill Amnesty International rips family separation policy: ‘This is nothing short of torture’ MORE (D-Ore.) first made headlines earlier this month when he attempted to tour a facility earlier this month but was unable to do so. He and other Democrats visited a center earlier this week.
Democratic lawmakers made a similar surprise visit to another immigration center housing migrant parents on Sunday, and were eventually let in.
The Trump administration has faced overwhelming criticism for the policy separating immigrant parents and children. President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE initially insisted that Congress must pass legislation to change the policy, but said Wednesday that he would sign an order to keep families together.
–Mike Lillis contributed to this report.