The U.S. government detained 123 migrants hoping to seek asylum in a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, over the last month.
Most of the detainees, who speak Hindi and Punjabi, reportedly come from South Asia, with 52 listing India as their home country.
Some claim to be Sikhs and Christians escaping from religious persecution by the Hindu majority.
Four Democrat members of Oregon’s congressional delegation visited the Federal Correctional Institution and learned that the migrants are confined up to 23 hours a day.
The detainees also complained that it is impossible to speak to a lawyer, while some worried about never seeing their families again.
Still, others reported receiving information on legal assistance, but such papers were stuck in the pockets of their clothes that had been confiscated.
“This is a shameful hour in U.S. history,” a tearful Rep. Earl Blumenauer told The Oregonian. “I don’t care what your stance on immigration is, no one should favor ripping children out of their parents’ arms.”
This is the latest in a string of arrests under President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, which extended to asylum seekers and have been breaking families apart for some time.
“The number to keep in mind is 2,000,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, who headed the delegation. “That’s how many children have been separated from their parents since the policy began.”
Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici also condemned the arrests, adding that they themselves are children of immigrants who sought a better life.
For now, the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) is spearheading a campaign to raise awareness and support the detainees, while Innovation Law Lab and the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Oregon are working on a legal response effort.
Those who wish to help may head over to the APANO website for more information.
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