It got heated at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post. Lawmakers condemned Trump's family separation policy, which the president ended in an executive order in June. During the Senate testimony, Trump officials were grilled over family separations, and it resulted in one ICE official comparing migrant detention centers to "summer camp."
According to The Post, an ICE official named Matthew Albence attempted to disagree with the Democrats on the Senate panel when they accused ICE of mistreating young children. Albence told lawmakers that ICE detention centers were akin to "summer camp."
In his remarks to the Senate, Albence said, "These individuals have access to 24/7 food and water. They have educational opportunities. They have recreational opportunities, both structured as well as unstructured; there’s basketball courts, there’s exercise classes, there’s soccer fields we put in there."
Albence's remarks come only a day after a federal court ordered the United States government to obtain written and informed consent when administrating psychotropic drugs to migrant children at the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas. In other cases, there have been reports of assault and abuse at the detention centers where undocumented children have been kept without their parents.
Albence's "summer camp" description for detention centers did not sit well with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, according to The Post. The Connecticut senator asked all five of the Trump officials present at the Senate hearing if they thought the president's family separation policy was a "success." The Post reported that "not one raised a hand."
Another senator on the committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, demanded the Trump officials to tell him why some undocumented children have not been reunited with their parents, calling it a "calamity." Jonathan White, a public health official for the Trump administration, admitted that there had been trouble. "What went wrong is the children separated from their parents were referred as unaccompanied alien children when in fact they were accompanied," White said.
White was referring to communication breakdowns in the Custom and Border Protection databases where migrant children had been categorized. As children were mixed up between the categories of "family units" and "unaccompanied alien children," the Customs and Border Protection created a new term called "deleted family units." The Department of Health and Human Services, on the other hand, did not have the same category in its own database.
According to The Washington Post, what ensued was a communication failure so massive that government officials hand-sifted through the files of some 12,000 children in custody. This was all to figure out who came with their parents, who was in custody, and who came unaccompanied.
In addition to lampooning Trump officials over the government's immigration practices, lawmakers also criticized Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — and called for her resignation. California Sen. Kamala Harris said, "[Trump officials] are following orders, they are carrying out policies that are clearly not of their own making. I believe that those who created this policy and implemented it, including Secretary Nielsen, should step down."
At one point, Albence criticized Democrats, such as senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand among others, who have called for abolishing ICE. Albence said, "You cannot have strong border security with a void in the interior."
But Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin disagreed. "Blame other people if you wish," Durbin said, "but this started with somebody in the White House with a bright idea that turned out to be a disaster."