A congressional delegation met Monday with some of the unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents who are being housed at federal facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego County. The children, as young as 6 years old, are a few of the thousands in the custody of federal officials as the result of a “zero tolerance” policy enacted in April.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-12th District) called the policy “a heartbreaking, barbaric issue” and said it should be ended immediately.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April announced a zero-tolerance policy where anyone coming across the border will be prosecuted. That means children must be taken from their parents at the border because children can't be sent to jail.
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Pelosi appeared Monday with the congressional delegation in San Ysidro, California after the group met with 62 children and juveniles from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-51st District), U.S. Rep. Susan Davis (D-53rd District) and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wanted to see first-hand the effects of the Trump Administration’s policy.
On Thursday, Sessions quoted a Biblical passage to justify the policy.
On Monday, Vargas quoted a different passage from the Bible in which Jesus worked to reunite a family and called the policy immoral.
“No matter what you say about it, it’s not biblical,” Vargas said.
Trump has defended the policy, which has taken nearly 2,000 immigrant children away from their parents.
"The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility," he added.
“Not on my watch," Trump said Monday.
Sessions said Monday that law enforcement officials do not want to separate parents from their children.
Sessions was speaking in New Orleans at the National Sheriff's Association conference. He said enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from parents is necessary.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws that result in the separation of children from their parents.
Nielsen was speaking Monday at the National Sheriff's Association conference in New Orleans.
Last month, Homeland Security began referring all cases of illegal entry to the Justice Department for prosecution. Nielsen says agents are not acting cruelly, but are enforcing the laws passed by Congress. She said past administrations asked immigration agents to look the other way when families crossed the border illegally, but no longer.
The congressional delegation included U.S. Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-44th District, Los Angeles), Tony Cardenas (D-29th District, Panorama City), Judy Chu (D-27th District, Los Angeles), Lou Correa (D-46th District, Santa Ana), Jim Costa (D-16th District, Fresno), Jimmy Gomez (D-34th District, Los Angeles), Ruben Kihuen (D-4th District, Nevada), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-1st District, New Mexico), Lucille Roybal-Allard (40th District, Los Angeles), Norma Torres (D-35th District Ontario, CA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-7th District, New York).
"It's up to President Trump to own the fact that he made this policy. That he made this zero tolerance policy," Rep. Judy Chu said. "Trump started this and he can end this."
U.S. Rep. Norma Torres said she's been contacted by families and teachers who want to organize foster family systems for the children or protest the policy.
"They are fleeing such horrific violence and rape. The kinds of conditions that every single one of us would run from in order to protect our children and our families," Torres said.
One of the shelters for migrant children is located in a nondescript building in El Cajon. Department of Health and Human Services officials said most of the children in that facility are unaccompanied minors and only 10 percent were separated from their parents.
The trip comes as a debate rages on in Washington, D.C. and across the country over the administration’s strict enforcement of the existing policy to prosecute those entering the country illegally on top of the usual immigration proceedings.
The policy has separated nearly 2,000 children from their parents in six weeks. Trump has falsely been putting the blame for children separation on Democrats.