Dem senator: Border detention facility looked like ‘dog cage’

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyWarren unveils bill to lower drug prices by letting government manufacture them Dem senator: Trump border policy 'designed to traumatize these kids' Senate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension MORE (D-Ore.) on Wednesday described a border detention facility he visited as looking like how "you would construct a dog kennel.”

“What you have is cyclone fencing and fence posts that look like cages,” Merkley told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”

“They look like the way you would construct a dog kennel.”

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Merkley, who has made similar comparisons in the past, was referring to a migrant processing center he visited in Texas.

The Department of Justice hit back against the comparison, saying they do not employ the use of cages. 

“These short-term facilities do not employ the use of 'cages' to house unaccompanied minors, but portions of the facility makes use of barriers in order to separate minors of different genders and age groups,” the department said in a statement. 

Merkley responded on CNN, saying the department was not comfortable with the term “dog cages.”

“Well, it's just a matter of them not being comfortable with that term to describe it. They're big boxes made out of wire and fence posts. Call them whatever you want,” the senator said. 

Merkley's comments come just days after he was barred entry to an immigration detention facility in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday. 

“I was barred entry. Asked repeatedly to speak to a supervisor—he finally came out and said he can’t tell us anything. Police were called on us,” Merkley said in a tweet. 

A spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families told The Hill that Merkley was denied access for safety and security reasons. 

“United States Senator Jeff Merkley (OR-D), along with five other individuals, attempted to enter an unaccompanied alien children’s (UAC) shelter unannounced and broadcast live via social media last night in Texas. Thankfully for the safety, security and dignity of the children being cared for there, they were denied access. The Department of Health and Human Services takes the legal mandate to care for these children seriously. No one who arrives unannounced at one of our shelters demanding access to the children in our care will be permitted, even those claiming to be U.S. Senators," the spokesperson said in a statement. 

“Senator Merkley should respect the UAC program and engage in the appropriate processes, as many of his colleagues have done before him, to visit ORR facilities. We would welcome him to engage in that process so that he may visit the facility to make headway on this important issue, rather than just headlines.”

His visit was aimed at drawing attention to a Trump administration policy which calls for criminal charges against adults attempting to cross the border illegally. Parents facing charges are separated from their children while the charges are processed under the policy. 

The Trump administration has said the policy will help stop illegal border crossings, but Democrats have criticized it, calling it inhumane. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpREAD: Transcript of James Comey's interview with House Republicans Klobuchar on 2020: ‘I do think you want voices from the Midwest’ Israel boycott fight roils Democrats in year-end spending debate MORE has, in turn, blamed Democrats for the policy, saying they have yet to get their act together on immigration.