Jayapal is currently sitting in front of the CBP offices with Rep. John Lewis and Luis Gutierrez demanding the release of asylum seekers.
Jayapal is currently sitting in front of the CBP offices with Reps. John Lewis and Luis Gutierrez demanding the release of asylum seekers. Courtesy of Pramila Jayapal

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In an impassioned speech before the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who sucks, Seattle's Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said she wants to haul in Attorney General Jeff Sessions and have him testify on the Trump administration's decision to keep unaccompanied migrant children in cages on military bases and to jail men and women who are seeking asylum.

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As Steven reported over the weekend, Rep. Jayapal spoke with all of the 174 women who'd been transferred to a federal prison in SeaTac due to "the implementation of the U.S. Department of Justice’s 'zero-tolerance policy.'"

Instead of receiving a credible fear hearing, the women were "prosecuted in mass courts with 75 to 100 people being prosecuted at one time, they were taken away from their children, and not a single one had an opportunity to say goodbye to their children, to explain to them what was happening,” Jayapal said.

“They were put in facilities called the 'ice box' and 'dog pound,' and do you know why they call them the ice box, Mr. Chairman?" Jayapal continued. "Because the temperatures are so frigid. They cross the Rio Grande, they turn themselves in wet, and they’re put into an ice box and denied access to clean water for five days in some cases...On top of that they were called filthy, disgusting."

These women and thousands of others aren't receiving credible fear hearings because Sessions criminalized crossing the border and instituted a “zero tolerance” policy for the offense. Instead of being caught, screened, charged with a minor civil offense, and then released until their immigration court hearing, ICE throws people who cross the border into detention facilities and ships off their children to shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services. Those shelters are overflowing, so now the Trump administration is looking into building detention camps to hold upwards of 5,000 unoccupied children.

In many cases people are crossing the border to seek asylum from gang violence in Central America. But on Monday Sessions made that claim nearly all but impossible to make by declaring that domestic abuse and gang violence would no longer qualify as grounds for asylum.

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Sessions says his barbaric immigration policy is an attempt to deter people from crossing the border, but last week the United Nations told the Trump administration that separating children from their parents at the border “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child" under international law.

It might also be unconstitutional. According to Slate's Jeremy Stahl, "The Supreme Court held in 2000’s Zadvydas v. Davis that due process rights apply to undocumented immigrants. This holding suggests the government may not separate asylum-seekers from their children indefinitely and without cause. During last month’s arguments, it sounded like the judge believed the policy justification stated by Kelly—deterrence of illegal immigration—was clearly unconstitutional."

Last week Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill in the Senate to end the policy, but it won't go anywhere with Republicans in control of Congress.