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 JeffriesMembers of Congress weigh in on the great 4th of July debate: Hot dogs or hamburgers Dem generation gap widens Crowley stunner sets off new scramble among House Dems MORE (N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralEric Holder: Calls to abolish ICE are 'a gift to Republicans' Dems say they'll vote 'no' on their 'Abolish ICE' legislation House GOP to bring Dem ‘abolish ICE’ bill up for vote MORE (N.Y.), Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyA 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 Washington big names celebrate launch of Hill.TV MORE (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneFCC passes controversial rule changing how it handles consumer complaints Overnight Health Care: Dem demands details on Trump-Pfizer pricing deal | Why both sides agree nominee could shift high court to right on abortion | DEA gets more powers to limit opioid production Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review 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 lawmakers make surprise visit to ICE detention center Push for NAFTA deal continues as uncertainty increases Dems put squeeze on Ryan over chaplain controversy 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 MerkleyHillicon Valley: Hacker tried to sell military docs on dark web | Facebook fined over Cambridge Analytica | US closer to lifting ZTE ban | Trump, Obama lose followers in Twitter purge | DOJ weighs appeal on AT&T merger Demanding accountability from private companies detaining children FCC proposes overhaul to comment filing system 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 HurdDem, GOP groups prepare spending blitz for midterms GOP rep: Phone number for HHS conference call on family reunifications didn’t work Immigration: Too much noise, too little thought 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 SessionsConservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report Senators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ 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.