GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Two Congressmen from Michigan are calling for more government transparency after the Office of Refugee Resettlement turned them away form their planned visit to a Bethany Christian Services foster care site with immigrant children separated from their families at the southern U.S. border.
Despite first getting clearance from the ORR's director, earlier Friday Congressmen Bill Huizenga and Tim Walberg say the ORR denied them access to a foster care site, where they planned to evaluate how separated immigrant children are being cared for.
"Unexpected and unacceptable," is what Huizenga and Walberg call the ORR denying them access.
"When we have governmental agencies that are unwilling to even work with Congress, that's a concern to us and that goes away from finding a solution," said Walberg (R - Jackson).
The congressmen say this comes after days of speaking with officials and getting clearance form the ORR director, which is the federal agency that contracts Bethany to foster separated immigrant children in Michigan.
"We need to find a legislative solution to this, we cannot depend on just purely administration policy or court orders to do this," said Huizenga (R - Zeeland).
In June, Huizenga introduced The Family Reunification Act to reunite children with their families "as soon as possible," with stipulations based on a child's safety.
"Last week we saw the second larger immigration bill fail, which would have addressed this at least partially," Huizenga said. "I believe it's time for a narrow fix."
Huizenga says he believes these families should be detained.
"The option is catch and release, which I don't think is a viable option either," Huizenga said. "It's not the law. So my opinion, we have to find somewhere between doing nothing, and the current situation that we have. That’s exactly what we’re working on, and we think we can find that solution."
Huizenga's Democratic opponent running for election in November is Rob Davidson, an emergency medicine doctor of nearly 20 years and current Spring Lake Public School Board member.
"As a physician for two decades, I understand how that psychological trauma impacts the health of these kids and impacts the rest of their lives," Davidson said. "I would call for a ban to the indefinite detention of children."
Davidson says legislation must go further to ensure families are reunited but not detained throughout their legal process.
"I would call on Congressman Huizenga to push legislation that would ban the permanent detention of children," he said. "Anything short of that I think is just window dressing on this problem, and not taking a clear stand on the side of these kids."
FOX 17 also reached out to Bethany Christian Services, whose officials released this statement:
"As we continue to work diligently to ensure that children separated from asylum seeking families are reunified with their families, we are in conversations with a number of elected officials to further inform them of how our 20 plus years of work in this space has provided us with the know how required to support children and families in crisis. Collectively we hope to continue to partner with churches, community organizations and elected officials to advocate for legislative change so this crisis doesn’t happen again. It is by working together that we can truly make a difference in the lives of these children."