Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Sunday sought a tour of an immigrant detention center in Brownsville, Texas, near the U.S. border with Mexico. But Merkley was not allowed inside. Supervisors at the facility called the police.
Merkley’s trip, which ended with a supervisor asking him to leave the facility while police looked on, was broadcast live in a Facebook video.
As a result of the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy of separating undocumented families who cross the border and prosecuting as many of them as possible, immigrant children are housed at facilities like the Casa Padre detention facility in Brownsville while their parents are taken to jail.
Casa Padre is a converted Walmart that’s now run by a nonprofit called Southwest Key Programs. When Merkley visited, the windows in the front doors were blacked out, making it impossible to see what was happening inside.
At the beginning of the Facebook video, Merkley notes that “behind those doors inside that Walmart are apparently many hundreds of children. I don’t know how many.”
Merkley, who also provided updates on his Twitter account, said that he’s the first member of Congress to visit Casa Padre. He said his office called the facility in advance to try and schedule a tour, but was unsuccessful.
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.
Children should never be ripped from their families & held in secretive detention centers. RT if you agree this is WRONG. pic.twitter.com/GVCuXNjR8d
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) June 4, 2018
When I visited an immigration detention center housing the children separated from their families, I was barred entry & the police were called on me. The front doors were locked and blacked out. What are they hiding about the conditions these innocent children are being held in? pic.twitter.com/LkEbAYAbcm
— Jeff Merkley (@JeffMerkley) June 4, 2018
“The American citizens are funding this operation, and so every American citizen has a stake in how these children are being treated, and in how this policy is being enacted,” Merkley said in the Facebook video.
Trump, who in recent weeks has repeatedly characterized undocumented immigrants as subhuman “animals,” has tried to pin blame for his administration’s policy of family separation on Democrats.
Put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from there parents once they cross the Border into the U.S. Catch and Release, Lottery and Chain must also go with it and we MUST continue building the WALL! DEMOCRATS ARE PROTECTING MS-13 THUGS.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
In reality, however, the policy that results in children being separated from their parents at the border was implemented by the Trump administration, and could be ended at any time on the president’s direction.