KARNES CITY, Texas – Two Democratic lawmakers on Monday toured the U.S. Department of Homeland Security facility in Karnes City where hundreds of immigrant families are being held.
U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, who represents the 33rd Congressional District in Texas, and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, toured the facility one day before children under the age of 5 are supposed to be reunited with their parents after they were separated at the border under President Trump's zero-tolerance policy.
KSAT 12 News reporter Max Massey met with the lawmakers following their tour.
The media was not allowed inside the building, so the lawmakers were asked about the conditions the detainees are living in.
"You know, people are being fed. People bring clothes in there. They have doctors in there. I don't think that they have an enough adequate counselors in there, to be quite frank with you," Veasey said. "I don't think the three mental health counselors are enough based on some of what I've heard people go through. Not only when they leave their country but what they face when they make the migration here."
But it wasn't the conditions of the facility the lawmakers were frustrated with. They're adamant about the need for systematic changes.
"They are seeking asylum and we need to have a vibrant process in place for asylum seekers," Gillibrand said. "And unfortunately under this administration, families are being torn apart. They're being demonized. They're being spoken of as criminals."
Gillibrand, who is an advocate for immigration reform, said the immigrants being held in facilities should have alternatives.
The facility in Karnes County is the third the lawmakers have seen in the last couple of days.
"These are good people that are trying to come to America to flee the violence," Veasey said.
The lawmakers spoke to and tried to speak to several families. They said they spoke to a woman who said she was sexually assaulted in Guatemala and came to the United States to flee from the violent environment.
"Under the zero-tolerance policy Trump implemented, people are still coming over here because the conditions that they face in their own country are horrendous," Veasey said.
The lawmakers were also asked if they believe it's possible for the Trump administration to meet a major deadline a federal judge put into place for July 26, when all families must be reunited.
"After seeing the numbers of families still separated, I find it very unlikely," Veasey said.
He said there are roughly 400 people being held in the Karnes County facility, and many more are still separated in other facilities in Texas.
"We need to do something to help them, and we need to do it soon," Veasey said.