FEATURED:

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 JeffriesAs Kanye goes to the White House, both sides credit Kushner for prison reform Bustos announces bid to become fourth-ranking Dem next year Why US creators urgently need Congress to support the CASE Act MORE (N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralHispanic Dems want answers on detention of immigrant minors House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Overnight Defense: Officials rush to deny writing anonymous op-ed | Lawmakers offer measure on naming NATO headquarters after McCain | US, India sign deal on sharing intel MORE (N.Y.), Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyTrump administration rigging the game, and your retirement fund could be the loser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Senate panel to vote on Kavanaugh today | Dems walk out in protest | Senators to watch Live coverage: Senate Judiciary to vote on Kavanaugh confirmation MORE (N.Y.), Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Hillicon Valley: Facebook rift over exec's support for Kavanaugh | Dem worried about Russian trolls jumping into Kavanaugh debate | China pushes back on Pence House Democrat questions big tech on possible foreign influence in Kavanaugh debate 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 PascrellDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Repealing SALT deduction cap would largely benefit wealthy: analysis Ryan, lawmakers call on Catholic Church leaders to come clean 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 MerkleyEPA chief calls racist Facebook post he liked ‘absolutely offensive’ Dem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen 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 HurdDems struggle to mobilize Latino voters for midterms Election Countdown: Florida candidates face new test from hurricane | GOP optimistic about expanding Senate majority | Top-tier Dems start heading to Iowa | Bloomberg rejoins Dems | Trump heads to Pennsylvania rally GOP spokeswoman says Republicans will lose House seats in midterms 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 SessionsFBI investigated whether McCabe leaked info about Flynn and Trump to media Ex-Senate Intel staffer pleads guilty to lying to feds over contacts with journalists House Judiciary chairman threatens to subpoena Rosenstein 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.