Seven Democratic legislators attempted to gain access to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility Sunday in an effort "to draw attention to the family members who have been separated by federal authorities while illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States," Fox News reports.
Rep Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), both of whom have pulled similar stunts before, led a group of seven New York and New Jersey representatives in an effort to enter the detention facility, even "literally banging on the door" and "arguing" with ICE agents manning the federal facility.
Rep. Pascrell detailed his exploits on Twitter, first forcing open the facility's door and refusing to allow it to close unless he and the other members of Congress were allowed access to the detention center, then angrily demanding that ICE move quickly to allow him and the others to meet with illegal immigrant detainees.
ICE staff told us to wait five minutes. That was 50 minutes ago. @RepJerryNadler @FrankPallone @RepSires @RepMaloney @RepEspaillat @RepJeffries and I literally banging on the door to gain entry to the jail to see separated families. pic.twitter.com/IwfZrQzGio— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) June 17, 2018
Once given the green light to enter the detention facility, the group groused that they were subject to security protocols.
This is a perfect example of ICE’s disorganization throughout our country. We’ve been very patient this morning. Now they're asking us to empty our pockets like we're common criminals? We are duly elected Members of Congress -- and we want access. #FathersDay pic.twitter.com/DcftcPFwJJ— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) June 17, 2018
It turns out, though, that ICE does allow members of Congress access to their facilities — but they have to call first. Unfortunately, having staff arrange a tour, and then showing up to calmly meet with both ICE officials and immigrant detainees in scheduled appointments doesn't look as good on camera.
"The Congressman came unannounced but ICE accommodated their request and they were allowed to visit and meet with several detainees," ICE explained to Fox News.
Scheduling a tour also doesn't allow Democratic members of Congress to make sweeping proclamations about their own compassion to compliant press.
Only members of Congress were allowed inside. Their staffs and the press were asked by ICE to head outside until the Democrats exited the building. Instead of complying, they staged a protest of their own.
With congressional Members just allowed inside to see prisoners and conditions, jail staff now asking all press to leave and go outside. Press and staff refusing to move. #FathersDay #FamiliesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/H1CVEw5Zqi— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) June 17, 2018
The Democrats, of course, held a press conference after the tour where they told amassed protesters to keep fighting.
"Nadler, appearing to read from prepared remarks, said that 'several' of the detained parents he had spoken to inside had their children 'ripped from their arms' and were 'in tears when we were speaking to them,'" Fox News reported. Nadler went on to accuse President Trump of "lying" about why the families were separated.
The Trump Administration has faced growing bipartisan criticism over its enforcement of a policy that separates illegal immigrant children from parents while the parents undergo criminal proceedings. The president and Congress are expected to address the issue this week.