The Slatest

Democratic Lawmakers Make Surprise Visit to ICE Detention Center on Father’s Day

People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy of separating children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, N.J. on June 17, 2018.
People participate in a protest against recent U.S. immigration policy of separating children from their families when they enter the United States as undocumented immigrants, in front of a Homeland Security facility in Elizabeth, N.J. on June 17, 2018.
REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Several Democrats decided to use Father’s Day to call attention to the practice of separating children from their families at the border amid growing outrage. A group of Democratic lawmakers from New York and New Jersey went to an immigration detention center on Sunday and talked to immigrants who had been separated from their families. The seven Democrats — Reps. Frank Pallone, Albio Sires*, and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Hakeem Jeffries, and Adriano Espaillat of New York — made the surprise visit to the Elizabeth Contract Detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J., where they had to wait for about an hour before finally being allowed inside.

“It was shameful what we heard inside,” Jeffries said. “There was a father who spoke about his young daughter being ripped away from him at 3 a.m. in the morning. This is the indecency of this administration. This is the child abuse that the Trump administration is perpetrating.” Pallone said none of the parents had been told where their children were taken.

Of the five men the lawmakers met who were arrested on the border with Mexico and are seeking asylum, two had their young children taken away from them and another was separated from his seven-year-old brother. “It’s pretty heart wrenching what I saw in there,” Sires said. “I came to this country when I was 11 years old, that’s not the country that I can remember that’s in there.”

The group of lawmakers called on the White house to stop separating families at the border. “This must not be — must not be — who we are as a nation,” Nadler said. “That is why we have come here today, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, to stand with those who merely seek refuge in our country.”

Other Democrats also used the day to speak up against family separation. Former president Bill Clinton was one of the many who took to Twitter to send a different kind of Father’s Day message. “On this Father’s Day I’m thinking of the thousands of children separated from their parents at the border,” Bill Clinton wrote. “These children should not be a negotiating tool.”

The former president got support from Hillary Clinton who retweeted his message with one word: “YES!

Chelsea Clinton also joined the family affair and sent her own tweet calling attention to the issue. “I also could not imagine being forcibly separated from my children as I sought sanctuary. No parent, no person should support this,” she wrote.

The Clintons were only part of a string of Democrats who used Twitter to call attention to the issue, many using the hashtag #FathersDayofAction. “This #FathersDay, the Trump Administration is CHOOSING to forcibly separate children from their parents who are legally seeking asylum. I repeat, there is NO LAW requiring this,” Sen. Bob Menendez wrote.

“This Father’s Day, I can’t stop thinking about the children being separated from their parents by the Trump administration,” wrote Sen. Chris Murphy.

Correction at 6:05 p.m.: This piece mistakenly identified Rep. Albio Sires as a lawmaker from New York. He represents New Jersey’s 8th congressional district.