Dem congresswoman: Imprisoned asylum-seeking women have no idea where their children are

Keren Carrion

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said on Saturday that asylum-seeking women being held at a detention center near Seattle “have no idea” where their children were after they were separated by immigration officials at the U.S.–Mexico border.

At an event outside a Washington federal prison in SeaTac, Wash., Jayapal said she spent three hours in the facility to meet with each woman being held there.

“A huge number of them are mothers whose children were taken away from them when they were apprehended at the border or when they turned themselves in,” Jayapal said.

“They literally never had a chance to say goodbye to their children. Some of the children are as young as 6, perhaps younger. These women have no idea, in the vast majority of these cases, where their children are,” she added.

Jayapal noted that the more than 160 women at the detention center came from 16 countries. The vast majority of the women are seeking political asylum, the congresswoman said.

Her office is working to identify each of the women and provide legal assistance, according to The Seattle Times.


Jayapal went on to describe poor conditions in which the women are being held.

“They literally refer to the holding places with names such as the icebox because they are so cold with no blankets, no mattresses, nothing to sleep on, nothing to cover themselves in. If they came across the river they were put into the icebox in the same clothes that they came out of the river in,” Jayapal said of the federal facility.

A number of Democratic politicians joining Jayapal spoke out against the Trump administration’s practice of separating families at the southern border.

“No administrations should willfully try to cause trauma to children in order to pursue their goals. That is unacceptable. This is not an accidental infliction of trauma on children,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said it was disturbing that Trump seemed “clueless about this policy.”

“President Trump is responsible for this and if he is as troubled by it as he claims to be, then stop doing it. You are the president, you have the power to change this policy in an instant,” Smith said.

The Trump administration separated nearly 1,800 families at the U.S.–Mexico border between October 2016 and February of this year, a senior government official told Reuters on Friday. 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have officially acknowledged that more than 2,400 children were separated from their families during the nearly 17-month period. The official, however, did not confirm whether any of the separations occurred in the last three months of former President Obama‘s administration.

Last month, a CBP official testified that there were 638 separations between May 6 and May 19.

Those figures come months after the Department of Homeland Security implemented its “zero tolerance” policy that mandates all those apprehended illegally entering the U.S. receive criminal charges. The policy generally results in children being separated from their parents as they face charges.

Tags Adam Smith Adam Smith detention facilities Donald Trump Donald Trump ICE Immigration Jay Inslee Pramila Pramila Jayapal Pramila Jayapal separating families Trump

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