Congress members demand access to NJ immigration detention center, call what they saw ‘despicable’

ELIZABETH, NJ — A dad in a New Jersey immigration detention center doesn't know where his 5-year-old daughter is; she was taken from him in the middle of the night after they crossed the border.

He got on his knees and begged for her return unsuccessfully, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said during a Father's Day press conference.  Pallone was among several lawmakers who demanded access to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility Sunday following an unannounced visit.

What they saw inside was "despicable" and "a sin," Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) said.

"We are here today to tell Trump and Jeff Sessions that America welcomes its tired, its poor, its huddled masses," he said. ""It doesn't put them in jails and tent cities."

As Pallone, Pascrell, Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Adriano Espaillat toured the facility, hundreds outside protested the separation of parents and children at borders.

The Trump administration says the separation of parents and children is a necessary deterrent to illegal immigration. About 2,000 children had been separated from their families over a six-week period ending in May, administration officials said Friday.

The policy has caused international outrage and the United Nations human rights office called for an end to it earlier in June.

"Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status," spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. "Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation."

PIX11 has reached out to ICE for comment.