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Congressmen Walberg and Huizenga denied entry to refugee site in West Michigan

Congressmen Tim Walberg (left) and Bill Huizenga (right)
U.S. House of Representatives
Congressmen Tim Walberg (left) and Bill Huizenga (right)

Two congressmen from Michigan were denied access to a site where refugee children are staying.

Congressmen Bill Huizenga and Tim Walberg represent Michigan’s second and seventh congressional districts, respectively.

The two visited with Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids today to discuss legislation that aims to reunite families that were separated at the country’s southern border.

Bethany Christian Services has been finding temporary foster homes for children that were separated from their parents. 

During their time in Grand Rapids, the two attempted to visit a site where undocumented children were staying, although both declined to get more specific. That’s when things went awry.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a federal agency that’s a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, denied both congressmen access to the site.

Bethany Christian Services, which is a private entity, is contracted by ORR and followed their orders to not allow Huizenga or Walberg to enter the site.

Walberg says he understands the sensitive nature of visiting temporary housing sites for refugee children.

“But when we have governmental agencies that are unwilling to even work with Congress, that’s a concern to us,” Walberg said.

No representatives from ORR were immediately available to provide comment.

Huizenga thinks there needs to be a legislative solution to the issues of refugee resettlement and reuniting families.

“We cannot depend just purely on administration policy or court orders to do this,” Huizenga said.

Huizenga sponsored a bipartisan bill last week to ensure that DHHS would reunite the families as quickly as possible. The bill was introduced before President Trump signed his executive order and before a federal judge ordered an end to the separations.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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