ELIZABETH, N.J. — Protests are growing by the day as children are being separated from their parents if they cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and are caught, and families in the tri-state are are being separated if officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pick them up in a sweep.
The Trump administration said it's a deterrent and will stop illegal immigration, but opponents say it violates human rights.
The Reformed Church of Highland Falls has been coming out every three weeks, on Monday mornings, to a detention facility in Elizabeth, N.J. Monday is typically the day that detainees are moved by van to Newark Airport to be deported back to their home country.
Pastor Amos Caley said they started when four Indonesian men were targeted during routine check-in visits with officials, the same visits they’d been making for decades.
“These men have been in country some of them for over 20 years with U.S. citizen children,” he said, adding that the deportations were draconian and fueled by the greed of a for-profit prison business.
On Sunday, seven democratic lawmakers were at the facility demanding access.
They waited 90 minutes before being allowed an emergency inspection and denounced the White House's newly enforced policy to prosecute all detained at southern border crossings and take children older than 5 away from their parents.
"We spoke to fathers whose children have been ripped from their arms," Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said.
This comes as newly released pictures show living conditions inside detention centers for adults and children. Some are forced to sleep on mats on the ground with foil blankets and behind chainlink fences.
"The Trump administration has announced a zero-tolerance policy that has zero morality, zero decency, zero integrity and we will not rest until we shut that policy down," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said.
Many immigrant rights’ advocates now say parents are being lied to, told their children are being taken for a bath, only to find out they’re being permanently separated while they face federal prosecution.
It's the new hard-line stance since April. The U.S. government has confirmed that 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the border over a six-week period.
On Monday, President Donald Trump called the policy of separating families at the border sad and continued to blame Democrats.
"If Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing we could something done very quickly- for the children, good for the country, good for the world," he said.
The Trump administration does have the power to stop the practice of separating children from their parents.
According to secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen, they are enforcing the law of the land. She said the administration "will not apologize."
"It is important to note these minors are very well taken care of," she said. "Don't believe the press."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the administration doesn't "want to separate children from their parents."
"We do not want adults to bring children into this country unlawfully either," he said.
First lady Melania Trump made a rare statement on her husband’s policy, saying, in part through a spokeswoman, “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.”
Former first lady Laura Bush in a Washington Post Column called the practice "cruel" and "immoral."
"In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis?" she wrote.