What to Know
- Lawmakers toured a NJ ICE detention facility on same day Trump administration announced new rule to hold children in centers indefinetly
- Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) joined others and walked around the Elizabeth Detention Center
- Espaillat and Meeks told reporters that those being held in the center are innocent asylum seekers, not lawbreakers
On the same day the Trump administration announced a new rule that children in federal detention facilities can be held indefinitely, instead of only 20 days, local politicians toured a New Jersey detention facility.
Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Gregory Meeks (D-NY) joined others and walked around the Elizabeth Detention Center Wednesday, inspecting the conditions and subsequently telling reporters that those being held in the center are innocent asylum seekers, not lawbreakers.
“These folks here are not rapists and criminals,” Espaillat said.
The congressional tour of the facility -- lined with dark windows, security cameras and under the constant drone of planes from nearby Newark Airport -- revealed that those waiting to have their cases heard run up against a recurring obstacle.
“These individuals are there simply because they can’t get before a judge to have their asylum cases heard,” Meeks said.
The four Congress members toured the facility for about two and half hours.
Additionally, Meeks, who organized the tour, says it was purely coincidental that it took place on the same day the president’s administration announced the new rules.
A group of demonstrators also showed up demanding action.
“They’re innocent people,” a protester could be heard yelling from the crowd.
President Donald Trump’s new interim secretary of Homeland Security said the new policy is aimed at getting things at the border under control.
"At the heart of this new rule are two core principles: that families should remain together during immigration proceedings and that conditions for care of children must be appropriate,” Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, said.
But those words offered little comfort to the delegation in Elizabeth, including grassroots organizers long opposed to detaining immigrants.
“At the very least we need to do a better job of due process and we need to do a better job at being humane to people,” Jean Belford, of Rockaway Women for Change, said.
As for the conditions inside the Elizabeth Detention Center, those who joined the congressional tour said they were OK with five cots to a room and things were relatively clean.
However, on the other hand, those in charge had three weeks’ notice that members of Congress were going to pay them a visit.