Rep. Kilmer: ICE wouldn’t grant me access due to security, chicken pox concerns
TACOMA, Wash. — A congressman wasn’t allowed access to an detention center in Tacoma to talk with immigrants separated from their families, in part due to concerns about chicken pox.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement canceled a planned tour of the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center over the weekend at first due to “security concerns,” Rep. Derek Kilmer said.
The tour was planned in advance, but officials allegedly told Kilmer it needed to be canceled due to a planned protest.
Kilmer said he attempted to go during normal visiting hours in lieu of a full tour Saturday, but was again told he couldn't enter. Officials said there was a precautionary quarantine due to chicken pox, Kilmer told Q13 News. One of the detainees had encountered chicken pox before coming to the detention center, prompting a quarantine.
"I told them I have had the chicken pox, so I'm OK," Kilmer said.
ICE officials were not immediately available for comment on the story.
Detention centers have been at the center of protests in recent weeks, after thousands of families were separated at the border. The Washington Post reports other legislators have been turned away at ICE detention centers across the country,
Kilmer and other Democrats have been critical of President Trump's previous decision to separate families at the U.S border. Trump signed an executive order intended to reunite families.
But Kilmer said there are still families that haven't been reunited.
"I think having families being separated is not who we are as a country," Kilmer said. "And unfortunately despite his executive order, we still haven't seen reunification of parents and their kids."
In a release Saturday night, the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services said 2,053 children were still in the custody of HHS and awaiting being returned to their parents.