This past weekend, Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley tried to visit an immigration detention facility (I understand the topic of detention facilities has been controversial but I am merely reporting the news, not attempting to be political) in Brownsville, TX and live-streamed his arrival. Merkley wanted to visit the detention facility, run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, because children who had been separated from their parents at the border were being housed there and he wanted to check in on them. Although the senator identified himself as a member of Congress and asked for permission to enter (he said the windows appeared to be blacked out) he was denied entry:
I was barred entry. Asked repeatedly to speak to a supervisor—he finally came out and said he can’t tell us anything. Police were called on us.
Children should never be ripped from their families & held in secretive detention centers. RT if you agree this is WRONG. pic.twitter.com/GVCuXNjR8d
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) June 4, 2018
And he wasn’t the only one who has tried to visit a detention center and been denied; Merkley’s colleague, Sen. Bob Menendez tweeted in response about his experience:
This is outrageous. Sec. Nielsen owes us answers. My team was also barred from touring a migrant processing facility where families are being separated.
When the elected representatives of the people can’t observe how our government is operating, we’re in an upside down world. https://t.co/82K1y2dRUm
— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) June 4, 2018
Senator Merkley said in an interview, “I wanted to be able to visit the facility where apparently upwards of 1,000 children are being held in that massive building, a former Walmart, and the federal government, President Trump and team, Attorney General Sessions, Homeland Security, they do not want members of Congress or the public to know what’s going on. This is not zero tolerance. This is zero humanity. It’s damaging children, putting them through a horrific experience in a land where they know no one, and they don’t know where they’re being sent and they don’t understand why they’re being sent.”1
But the press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security said:
“DHS follows the laws passed by Congress and processes alien children safely and humanely. Contrary to any misinformation campaign, the safety of children is paramount for DHS. I encourage Senator Merkley to work with the administration to fix the underlying loopholes that act as a pull factor for illegal immigration and place these children at risk from smugglers and human traffickers.
At 2 pm on a Friday, the Senator asked to visit a secure DHS facility over the weekend where children are present and we worked with him to provide him access. This presented obvious and serious privacy concerns – not to mention disrupting operations. He was able to visit the facility on Sunday.”2
For his part, the president sees this issue very differently,
Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
Although the president holds the Democrats responsible for what’s going on, critics have said that there is no actual law requiring families to be split up.
I hate all the “he said, she said” that goes on in politics. Especially given the fact that someone is always caught in the middle and in this case, it’s innocent children.