Sen. Jeff Merkley is bringing to attention that he was denied entry into an immigrant detention center, even though he tried to set up a tour of the facility last week. Merkley videotaped the incident, which is now making the rounds on social media. In a Twitter post, Merkley said that “I’m at an immigration detention center where children who have been separated from their families are being held. Trying to get inside to get answers. Follow live.”
However, Merkley was unable to enter the facility, as the supervisor and police officers spoke with the senator, reported The Hill.
The main reasons for Merkley wanting to enter the facility included wanting to know more about what’s going on behind closed doors. The facility in question is a former Walmart. Merkley elaborated in a Facebook post.
“I’m going to try to enter a facility in Brownsville, TX run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. I am told that this former Walmart may currently be housing hundreds of refugee children who have been separated from their parents.”
The separation of immigrant children from their families who are seeking asylum has been a contentious topic. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that authorities plan to separate children from their families during the asylum-seeking process. Trump and Sessions have said that this hardline approach reduces the number of immigrants attempting to cross the border, whereas opponents say that it is “antithetical not only to American values but to basic decency and humanity.”
It’s unclear how many children may be at the detention center, how long they may stay there, and what their ages are. The videos that Merkley made show that the Walmart doors that were once clear glass, have been carefully blacked out.
The immigration detention centers for adults have been under scrutiny in the past for allegations of mistreatment. Recently, a group of detained migrants from the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, California released an open letter to bring to the public attention the conditions inside the facility. There were 37 people who signed the letter.
In it, the detained migrants said that “We come fleeing to this country, not because we want to, but because we come looking for help (asylum), in our countries we are tortured, exploited, extorted and discriminated.” They continue to say that “The conditions here are awful…There are too many people inside here…The showers, the bathrooms, the beds, there are people everywhere.”
In light of these reports from the adults, it’s not surprising that Sen. Merkley is now demanding answers in person for what’s happening behind closed doors at the children’s detention center.