Dem lawmakers make surprise visit to ICE detention center

Several Democratic lawmakers on Sunday paid a "surprise Father's Day visit" to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in New Jersey, capping off a week of heightened tensions surrounding the issue of migrant family separations.

Reps. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesConnect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Dem lawmaker labels Trump the ‘Grand Wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave’ Dem lawmaker sees 'probability’ that next Speaker will be black MORE (N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralDem lawmaker to lead vigil in New York park following anti-immigrant rally Gillibrand: 'We should get rid of ICE' if Dems flip House and Senate NAACP statehood statement leaves Puerto Ricans perplexed MORE (N.Y.), Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyWomen poised to take charge in Dem majority A new urgency to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — GOP spars with FBI agent at tense hearing MORE (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDem: Trump ‘placing politics over our national security’ by revoking Brennan’s clearance House Dems press FCC chairman for answers on false cyberattack claim House Dems call for new FCC probe into Sinclair MORE (N.J.), Albio SiresAlbio B. SiresRepublicans top Dems at charity golf game Dem lawmakers make surprise visit to ICE detention center Chao confirms Trump pushing Ryan to withhold Gateway project funding MORE (N.J.) and Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellDem: Trump revoking Brennan's security clearance is 'Moscow politics' Markey: We know more about Trump's talks with Cohen than with Putin House votes to repeal ObamaCare medical device tax MORE (N.J.) arrived around 9 a.m. at the Elizabeth, N.J., center, which houses migrants who were separated from their families after illegally crossing the border.

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According to Jeffries, the lawmakers were blocked from entering the facility after meeting initial resistance from ICE staff.

Maloney tweeted that the group was allowed in more than an hour later after "banging on the door" and telling ICE staff and local police that they would not move until they were let in.

"After being made to wait over an hour. After having to deal with local PD. After banging on the door and making it clear that we WILL NOT MOVE until we're allowed in, ICE is finally granting us access to see individuals who have been separated from their families," Maloney tweeted.

“We are now inside speaking with detainees who were separated from their children when they sought asylum in the US from terrible violence and danger at home,” Nadler tweeted.

"Protests outside the ICE detention center in Elizabeth continue to swell as I and my House colleagues tour the facility. Americans are fed up with the Trump administration's cruelty," Pascrell tweeted.

 

ICE said in a statement that media tours of the facilities require advance notice.

“The Congressmen were allowed to visit several detainees. Media tours need an advanced written request to ICE," the agency said.

Sunday's visit in New Jersey comes amid a growing campaign from Democrats and some Republicans to tour detention facilities housing migrant children who have been separated from their family members.

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBipartisanship alive and well, protecting critical infrastructure Overnight Defense: Senate sends 7B annual defense bill to Trump's desk | US sanctions Turkish officials over detained pastor | Korean War remains headed to Hawaii | Senators reassure allies on NATO support Dem strategist: It's 'far-left thinking' to call for Nielsen's resignation MORE (D-Ore.) is scheduled to lead a group of congressional lawmakers on a tour of a Brownsville, Texas, facility later Sunday.

Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdJuan Williams: What does Putin have on Trump? GOP lawmaker: Trump was ‘manipulated’ by Putin Schiff: Trump is acting like someone who is compromised MORE (R-Texas) visited a similar facility in Tornillo, Texas, on Friday night.

The tours come amid congressional pushback against the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy of separating migrant families who cross the border illegally.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen Connect Beltway to America to get federal criminal justice reform done Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE announced last month that the Justice Department would enact the policy, which aggressively prosecutes adults attempting to cross the U.S.–Mexico border illegally. At the time, Sessions acknowledged the process could lead to children being separated from their parents upon being apprehended.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly defended the policy, arguing that it acts as a deterrent against illegal immigration.

Democrats and Republicans, however, have spoken out against the practice, calling it cruel, immoral and un-American.

The Trump administration has indicated it will not unilaterally end the practice. Instead, the president and other White House officials have blamed Democrats for refusing to negotiate new immigration laws.

Updated at 12:56 p.m.