Two Democratic lawmakers who visited a detention facility where illegal immigrants are held said Monday that the Trump administration is rejecting people who deserve asylum.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey were part of a group of seven Democrats who visited a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in New Jersey on Father’s Day, and who said the practice of detaining families who jumped the border is cruel.
Mr. Jeffries recounted hearing from a father who explained that he fled his home country and headed for the U.S. after gang members went to his daughter’s school looking for her.
The family was apprehended after jumping the border. The congressman said he was separated thanks to the Trump administration’s new zero-tolerance policy, which includes criminal charges against adults who jump the border — even if they have children. Since they are sent to jail initially, and children can’t stay with parents in jail, the family is separated.
Mr. Jeffries said the father is now out of jail and in the immigration center, but is waiting to be reunited with his daughter.
Mr. Pascrell said he sent letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican, asking him to strip out money for the ICE detention facilities.
“You better not allow money from the appropriations to go to any of these, because if we allow them to be funded then they will continue to grow,” he said.
Mr. Pascrell also said that the standard for asylum was changing after a ruling earlier this month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that could limit claims from those who faced domestic abuse or live in unsafe neighborhoods in other countries.
“We’re starting to check off some of the reasons that we’ve accepted people for before,” Mr. Pascrell said.
Mr. Sessions defended his changes in an interview with The Hill, saying the U.S. asylum system isn’t supposed to be an outlet for the world’s myriad difficulties, but rather an escape valve for people suffering government-backed persecution for political, religious or racial reasons.
“We’re really returning to the classical understanding of what asylum is,” he said.