'It's Appalling. It's Un-American': Welch Tours Children's Detention Center In South Texas

Jun 18, 2018

Rep. Peter Welch says children are being held in metal-fenced cages while many of their families seek asylum in the United States.

On Sunday, Welch toured the Department of Health and Human Services children detention center in Brownsville, Texas.

This spring the Trump administration announced a "zero tolerance" policy that refers all cases of illegal entry into the U.S. for prosecution.

Church groups and human rights advocates have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane, and Welch says during his tour he learned that many of the children don't know where their parents are.

“It’s appalling. It’s un-American,” Welch said by cell phone during his tour Sunday. “We can have debates about border security, but we can’t hold hostage the fate of innocent children.”

Welch was in Texas this weekend with six other Democratic members of Congress along with reporters from The Associated Press who were allowed to tour the facilities.

"It's appalling. It's un-American. We can have debates about border security, but we can't hold hostage the fate of innocent children." — Rep. Peter Welch

The Associated Press reports about 2,000 children have been separated from their families over the past six weeks.

Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.

Michelle Brane is director of migrant rights at the Women's Refugee Commission, and she met with some of the children who are being held.

"The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions," Brane told The Associated Press. "If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they'd be held accountable."

Welch says he is not hopeful that Congress will take up any action to stop the separation of families on the border.

He says he wants to schedule hearings in Washington D.C. to at least get officials to talk about the program.

“There needs to be more public exposure because Americans of all stripes and all political parties are just appalled,” Welch says. “Frankly, I think it’s going to take a public outcry for the Trump Administration to get the message that this is beyond the pale.”

People across the state have been organizing to bring attention to the policy.

A community forum is planned for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Thetford Hill Congregational Church, and a statewide rally will be held at the Statehouse on Monday, June 25.

Click here to read The Associated Press' full reporting from the South Texas facility.