2 US senators stopped by police from touring immigrant detention facilities where children are held

  • Two Democratic US senators, Jeff Merkley and Robert Menendez, were barred entry from immigration detention facilities.
  • Video footage shows the police being called on Sen. Merkley after he attempted to access such a facility in Texas.
  • The Trump administration is facing scrutiny for its controversial immigration policy.

Two democratic US Senators, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, say they have been denied from officially touring immigration processing facilities where families who crossed the border illegally are reportedly separated.

A nearly 25-minute video posted to his official Facebook page Sunday evening shows Merkley attempting to access the Casa Padre center in Brownsville, Texas after official requests for a tour from his office were ignored.

After about 20 minutes of being denied access and waiting to speak to management, the police arrive and a supervisor for the facility tells Merkley he cannot even give him a statement.

In response to Merkley’s tweet, Menendez stated his office had also been denied access to a facility, and called on Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen for an explanation.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is pursuing a controversial practice of forcibly separating adults who cross the border illegally from their children in processing facilities like the one Merkley attempted to visit.

While adults are transferred to federal court to be criminally prosecuted for illegal immigration, their children are handed over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to be placed either with relatives in the US or in privately-run shelters.

Members of Congress being denied an official tour and having the police called on them for seeking information about a taxpayer-funded facility is unusual. Moreover, it is likely to draw even more scrutiny to these facilities and what happens inside their walls.

DHS says that 700 children have been separated from their parents at the border since October 2017. While the Trump administration argues this policy will deter people from coming into the US illegally, Democrats and child advocates say the policy is unnecessarily cruel.

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