A group of Democratic lawmakers visited an immigrant detention facility in New Jersey on Father’s Day to speak with asylum-seekers who have been separated from their families under a new Trump administration policy.
The group, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, attempted to enter the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, for over an hour Sunday morning. Several members of the delegation ― which included Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) ― were ultimately allowed inside.
Rep. Nadler is now speaking on the phone with an ICE Supervisor, Mr. Brennan, while Rep. Pascrell argues with staff through the glass. The Members of Congress have now been demanding access to the facility for the better part of an hour. pic.twitter.com/X5vwGKTDKL
— Stephen C. Tighe (@StephenCTighe) June 17, 2018
ICE staff told us to wait five minutes. That was 50 minutes ago. @RepJerryNadler @FrankPallone @RepSires @RepMaloney @RepEspaillat @RepJeffries and I literally banging on the door to gain entry to the jail to see separated families. pic.twitter.com/IwfZrQzGio
— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) June 17, 2018
Nadler criticized immigration officials at the facility for “delays and stalling tactics” that kept them from entering and speaking with detainees.
Speaking to reporters after the visit, Pallone said several detainees being held at the facility had been separated from family members, including one whose 7-year-old brother was missing and a father who said that his 5-year-old daughter had been taken from him while he was asleep.
“They came to this country in search of the protection and refuge that the proud inscription on the Statue of Liberty promises to those fleeing terror,” Nadler said. “They are being welcomed by more terror. What could be more terrifying than having your [child] taken from your arms?”
We are at the ICE Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ. where ICE is denying us entry to meet with fathers separated from their families. They’re now covering the windows with paper so we can't see in. This is not America. #FamiliesBelongTogther #FathersDay pic.twitter.com/II9okjzQZ0
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) June 17, 2018
The Trump administration has separated nearly 2,000 immigrant children from parents or guardians at the border over the span of six weeks, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Friday.
President Donald Trump and his aides have falsely blamed Democrats for the separation of children from their families, but the practice is the result of a “zero tolerance” policy announced in April by Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
Top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, claimed that “nobody likes” the Trump administration policy and urged Congress to pass a law to change it.
“As a mother, as a Catholic, as someone with a conscience … I will tell you that nobody likes this policy,” Conway told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.