TORNILLO, TX (Nexstar) — Controversy over the separation of families at the border between the United States and Mexico continues. On Sunday, U.S. senators and representatives, as well as camera crews, headed to the border to get a firsthand look at some of the centers where children are kept.
Senator Jeff Merkley, D-OR, was turned away at the warehouse that now houses undocumented immigrant children, known as “Casa Padre.” On Father’s Day, he and other lawmakers returned for an official tour.
“They went from 500 kids here in April to almost 1,500 here now,” he said. “There’s no place to put them, they’re talking about putting a tent city for children near El Paso.”
As lawmakers visited various detention centers, people gathered to protest the separation of families. In the past, many immigrants were simply deported with their children. Some call that policy “catch and release.”
The Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance policy means all adults are charged and their children are separated from them when the parents head to court.
The administration says it is necessary to discourage people from trafficking drugs and committing heinous crimes.
“There has to be a consequence for entering the country illegally,” said Manuel Padilla, RGV Border Patrol Chief.
But some lawmakers say the practice of separating the children from their families causes irreparable harm and trauma.
“My fear is that there may be loss of life, and the loss of life is children that can’t be found,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX.