Local members of Congress visited an Anne Arundel County immigration detention center Tuesday to visit with migrant parents separated from their children at the border.
President Donald Trump's zero tolerance policy has meant separating families and jailing hundreds in U.S. detention centers. Some of those people ended up at the Ordnance Road Correctional Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
Democratic Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia and his wife were accompanied by County Executive Steve Schuh and Democratic Rep. Charles Ruppersberger Tuesday at Ordnance Road.
They met with two men during their visit to the all-male facility, which is currently holding 113 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners.
The group was deeply affected by the visit.
“It was very emotional, very difficult. We spent a long time with two fathers: a father of a 5-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who have been separated from them respectively since mid-April and early March,” Beyer said. “One of the saddest parts is neither one has a lawyer, neither one has an announced date in which they will appear before a judge to have the asylum determination made.”
One of the men was Mario Aguilar, a Honduran seeking asylum with his 5-year--old daughter Marialita. Aguilar's mother already lives in the U.S.
The father and daughter were detained after crossing the U.S. border in Texas earlier this year. He has not seen his daughter since she was taken from him.
Aguilar told officials she is somewhere in the Chicago area.
Marialita made contact with her family back home in Honduras, because Aguilar apparently helped her memorize a Honduran relative's phone number while they waited in detention before being separated.
The foster family helped Marialita call that number and were able to alert a relative. But the foster family was not permitted to give the child's whereabouts.
“One of the things that makes this so very painful right now, is almost every child’s first tragedy, first trauma, is separation,” Beyer said. “These kids aren't separated to go off to kindergarten they’re torn away for weeks and months at a time.”
Ruppersberger vowed Tuesday to halt the policy forcing the separation between children and families enacted by the Trump administration.
“We're on different committees. I’m on one, appropriations, and one of the committees is homeland security,” he said. “I have an amendment in that I hope to get Republican support that will stop this by not providing funding for what trump wants to do.”