McALLEN, Texas - The Trump administration is facing criticism over immigration policy that's separating children from families at the border.
Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen and other lawmakers visited the U.S. Border Patrol facility in McAllen,Texas which is being used to house hundreds of immigrants who have been detained.
"The reason we came down here was to investigate the policy of the Trump administration to deliberately separate moms and dads from their children when they're seeking asylum," Van Hollen said. "Unfortunately our worst fears were confirmed."
The Senator said the group visited what he called a processing center and a detention center during the trip.
Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new "zero-tolerance" policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.
"This is a very cruel, inhumane policy. It needs to stop and the president could stop it today," Van Hollen said. He said fences are used to separate children from their parents.
"What we should be doing for these families who are seeking asylum is keep them together while they go through that asylum process," he said. "Maybe they will make it through the asylum process. maybe they won't. but it is absolutely inhumane to rip these kids from their parents while they're going through that process."
Van Hollen said that the Trump administration has essentially shut down the ability of people seeking asylum to come through the legal ports of entry. "People who are trying to legally seek asylum through the legal channels are not able to do it," he said.
He said crossings at the Hidalgo River Crossing have been slowed by new Trump policies "So they cross the river, which is a misdemeanor by the way. It is a misdemeanor. And when they do that, that's what causes them to separate from their families. That's a new policy that was just implemented by the administration. Before that, people were not criminally prosecuted for that first time misdemeanor if they were seeking asylum." He said prior to the change those crossing would be able to stay with their kids through the process. He said the policy of separating children from their parents is deliberate.
Let's get back to the bill, the bipartisan bill we had in the senate, Van Hollen said. "And immediately, that president, today should stop this policy of ripping kids from their families."