AOC in impassioned testimony: Children were separated from parents 'in front of American flags'

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.) delivered an impassioned plea for immigration policy change before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Friday, defending claims that migrants at the southwest border have been subject to abuse by federal authorities.

In an emotional testimony, Ocasio-Cortez described what she witnessed during a visit to an immigrant detention center earlier this month, and decried the alleged abuses happening "in front of the American flag."

“What’s worse, Mr. Chairman, was the fact that there were American flags hanging all over these facilities,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “That children were being separated from their parents in front of the American flag, that women were being called these names under an American flag, we cannot allow for this."

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The freshman lawmaker testified as part of a hearing on migrant family separations and detention center conditions, a rare occasion where four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers were called as witnesses to share their experiences at the border.

The progressive firebrand participated in a Congressional Hispanic Caucus-led visit this month to an immigrant detention center near El Paso, Texas, and said Friday that agents at the center asked visiting members not to interact with detainees.

But members asked for access to one of the cells after a brief altercation with agents, and took issue with the conditions, including a now-infamous claim of detainees drinking from a toilet in a cell where the sink didn’t work.

“When these women tell me they were put into a cell and their sink was not working, and then we tested the sink ourselves and the sink was not working, and they were told to drink out of the toilet bowl, I believe them. I believe those women,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

The lawmaker's testimony was briefly interrupted when a Democratic aide collapsed at the side of the room, falling to the floor.

Members, aides and Capitol Police rushed to help her, with Rep. Mark GreenMark GreenBlunting a global pandemic: An open memo to the new head of USAID Trump designates new acting head of USAID The risk of fracture: Coronavirus in the Middle East MORE (R-Fla.), a medical doctor, taking the lead in diagnosing the situation.

“Representative Green, who is a medical doctor, just told me she'll be OK," Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaryland postpones primary over coronavirus fears Maryland governor: 'Simply not enough supplies' on hand to tackle coronavirus Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges MORE (D-Md.) said. "Thank you, Rep. Green. It's good to have a doctor in the House."

Ocasio-Cortez returned to her statement after the incident to plead for a change in immigration policy, as well as policy toward Central America, to address the migration crisis.

“Whether it was agents, whether it was [Department of Health and Human Services] HHS officials, oftentimes they said the thing that we need most was not resources, we need policy change,” she said.

“So we need to change our metering policies, we need to change our detention policies, we need to change our policies on who we call unaccompanied,” added Ocasio-Cortez, in reference to the Trump administration policy of limiting the number of migrants who can apply for asylum at ports of entry.

Read more of The Hill's live coverage of the hearing