SANTA ANA (CNS) - A day after he visited immigration facilities at the San Diego border with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, said he saw troubling conditions.
“We looked into folks who were detained, waiting to be processed,” Correa said. “At that point the children were not separated from their parents, but they were all within these very small cells where a number of people are sitting there with their children.
“You can see how crowded the conditions are. To me, I found the situation very troublesome. They had Mylar blankets on them and a lot of them were sleeping on the floors, what looked like hard, concrete floors, all lying on the floor.”
In some places, “It didn't look there was enough room for folks to lie on the floor,” he added. “I found that to be, wow, this is a challenging situation.”
Correa, the ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, said the Pelosi- led delegation did visit with children who appeared to be well-taken care of by a nonprofit group.
“I met with psychologists and social workers there and I asked them why were these children making the trek north,” he said.
He learned that the Trump administration's tactic of providing a deterrent for migrants to come to the U.S. border may fail, he said.
“When they get to a certain age either the children (in Central America) either join a gang like MS-13 or they're killed,” Correa said. “That's the choice you have. The parents of these children have opted for choice three -- let's get the heck out of here while we can and that's why they leave.”
“Given those dire circumstances in Central America, is zero tolerance going to be a deterrent? I don't think so,” Correa said. “It's a very desperate situation in Central America.”
A $600 million U.S. program to help battle organized crime in Central America “was working, but it sounds like it was zeroed by the administration,” Correa said.
The biggest challenge is “America's insatiable thirst for drugs,” is “financing all the violence in Central America, which prompts the increased migration to here and Mexico,” Correa said.
Correa also said it appears the immigration officials are providing mixed messages to migrants.
“We asked what happens when someone comes to you and says, `I'm an asylum seeker?' Is anybody turned away, and their answer was no,” Correa said.
“Upon further inquiry we found out they only accept a certain number of asylum seekers every day and when they can no longer accept asylum seekers they say come back tomorrow. They're interpretation is they don't turn away asylum seekers, but in fact they do turn them away... When you tell people to come back tomorrow that's exactly what you do.”
President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to blame Democrats for the policy separating children from parents at the border. He pointed to a 2008 law that criminalized crossing the border, arguing there were “loopholes” that “cause family separation, which we don't want.”
Critics say he has the discretion to not enforce the policy of separating children from their parents as they await prosecution for crossing the border illegally.
Earlier in the day, Trump wrote on his Twitter account: “Democrats are the problem. They don't care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our country, like MS-13. They can't win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters!”