Senate Democratic leaders are challenging President Obama's immigration policies, telling him it is “unacceptable” to detain women and children seeking asylum.
Ten senators signed a letter saying they are concerned about the physical safety and due process rights of the women and children that would be detained at a new detention facility. There have been reports of substandard conditions and sexual assault at other centers.
The lawmakers said because the women and children are fleeing abuses back home, they are unlikely to flee custody. Previously, the administration had not detained women and children, but instead released them to sponsors until their asylum hearings.
Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyThe Hill's 12:30 Report Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy GOP wants to move fast on Sessions MORE (Vt.), Harry ReidHarry ReidFree speech is a right, not a political weapon Overnight Tech: FCC eyes cybersecurity role | More trouble for spectrum auction | Google seeks 'conservative outreach' director Cures bill clears first Senate hurdle MORE (Nev.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Patty MurrayPatty MurrayTop Dem signals likely opposition to Sessions nomination Overnight Finance: Trump takes victory lap at Carrier plant | House passes 'too big to fail' revamp | Trump econ team takes shape Senate Dems: Force Cabinet nominees to release tax returns MORE (Wash.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Mark Udall (Colo.) signed the letter Thursday.
The senators questioned Johnson's decision to build the nation's largest immigration detention facility in Dilley, Texas. DHS announced the construction of the new 2,400-bed facility as part of its efforts to address this year’s influx of thousands of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
“We have heard significant concerns regarding the conditions of confinement and obstacles to due process for detainees,” the senators wrote. “We are troubled by your apparent decision to make permanent and greatly expand the policy of family detention against the backdrop of these problems.”