More than two dozen members of Congress visited the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday, touring facilities being used to house adults and children under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy on border crossing.
“It was very important for us to see this first hand and to recognize the magnitude of it,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Peninsula, who was joined by fellow Bay Area representatives Barbara Lee and Anna Eshoo.
The group's first stop was the Border Patrol Station and Central Processing Station in McAllen, Texas, where the representatives said they mostly saw small children.
“I would say the oldest one would’ve been five years old," Eshoo said. "[They were] sleeping on a cement floor with a Mylar cover, their eyes confused from their confusion, crying. And they look like my children did when they were that age.”
Speier, who called the situation an "unmitigated disaster" on Twitter, said there were rows of cells that looked like cells in a county jail. She said one room was filled with about 30 mothers and children, who are housed at the facility for two to three days, before being a transferred to another facility.
“It is heartbreaking, and it is inhumane," she said.
Eshoo said she spoke with detained mothers at the group's second stop, Port Isabel ICE Detention Center in Los Fresnos, Texas, who had not heard if or when they would be able to see their children again.
“[It was] yet another heartbreaker – to hear their stories, how long they’ve been there," Eshoo said. "They don’t know where their children are."
She added that the visit made it clear to her that the federal agencies in charge of the situation don't have a clear plan of how to reunite kids with their families, even after the Trump administration announced Friday that 500 families had been reunited.
"It's very deplorable," added Rep. Lee. "It's sad. There's no due process."
Lee said she believes human rights violations are occurring at the detention facilities.
"I’ve seen it with my eyes, and I’m telling you, I am furious, I am heartbroken, and we’ve got to get this administration to stop this zero tolerance policy,” said Lee, who has called on the United Nations to send humanitarian observers to investigate the situation at the detention facilities.
"I can’t help but think of how ashamed I feel that this is being done in the name of the people of our country,” Eshoo said.
KQED's Tiffany Camhi contributed reporting to this story.