On November 15, a group of seventh-graders from the Henry Hudson Regional School in Highlands, New Jersey, took a trip to Washington, D.C. with the hopes of participating in a guided tour of the White House. However, not all of the students were able to be a part of the tour.
According to a report from the New York Post, three students were barred from the tour and forced to wait outside while the rest of the class went ahead. The three students who were all from foreign countries, two hailing from Sweden and one from Colombia, did not have their passports or any other valid form of identification on their person during the visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The report said that the school prepared the White House for the upcoming visit by sending in a list with the names of all the students and adults expected to take the tour, months in advance. But it seems one tiny detail was overlooked during this process.
The White House issues a sort of “boarding pass,” much like the one given to passengers at the airport. This pass is sent to the visitors in advance and it outlines all the rules to be followed and requirements necessary to be able to take the tour. Among those rules and requirements, the pass reads “all foreign nationals … regardless of age” must present a passport, alien registration card, or U.S. State Department-issued ID.
“They are here on visas, but they didn’t bring any of that stuff,” one father told the Post. “They didn’t have any ID on them.” As a result, the students were stopped after making it through the first checkpoint. Agents of the Secret Service were forced to deny access to the three excited seventh-graders.
After being denied by the Secret Service, the three children stayed outside with their principal, Lenore Kingsmore, according to a member of the school board. Some parents were seemingly outraged by the Secret Service’s treatment of the kids. “What are 12 -and 13-year-olds going to do? It doesn’t make sense,” a father said.
The story also made its way to Reddit, where some users were quick to attack Trump’s administration for not making an exception for the children while others stood by the decision of the Secret Service.
While it is an unfortunate situation, Stephanie Grisham, the First Lady’s communications director, says Trump’s administration isn’t to blame. She told the Post that the rules regarding non-citizen visitors have been equally strict while other presidents were in office. “The requirement has not changed under our administration,” Grisham said. In fact, in the Tours & Events section of the official website for the White House, the identification requirements are clearly stated.
The students were also expecting to have lunch on the lawn of the White House but that was canceled due to a snowstorm, which delayed the arrival of their bus.