Rep. Beto O'Rourke charged Thursday that racism is a factor in Trump administration policy leading to the detention of children at the border.
"This is a President who has called those asylum seekers, some of those asylum seekers, animals," the Texas Democrat said. "He's talked about this as an infestation. He's described immigrants from Mexico as rapists and criminals. ... There is a strong racist element to this policy."
O'Rourke, in an interview on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer," said he was concerned about the lack of information the administration had provided on children it is separating from parents who have crossed the border illegally.
He described a visit to a border patrol station in McAllen, Texas, last week and said that when he asked a border official if they could track children after they went into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the official said, "We don't know."
"They are not answering any of our questions," O'Rourke said of the federal government. "We are asking, for example, where are the girls? When I go to these detention centers and these processing centers, I see a lot of young boys. I don't see the girls. They won't tell us where they are."
O'Rourke said that after being denied access before, he and Rep. Joaquin Castro, a fellow Texas Democrat, planned to visit a site in Tornillo, Texas, on Saturday to see the children there.
"I don't know why it's taken them two weeks to allow us to do that," O'Rourke said. "But we're going to make the most of that opportunity and check on the welfare of those children and try to help reunite them with the parents from whom they've been separated."
President Donald Trump reversed himself on Wednesday, signing an order to keep more families together at the border as anger grew over children taken away from parents, and on Thursday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to modify a court order limiting officials from detaining children for more than 20 days.
O'Rourke said the move underscored the intent of the administration and the possibility it would go back to the practice, if it were not able to modify the rule stemming from Flores v. Reno.
"This shows you how malicious this President's intent is because what they've promised is if they are unsuccessful in this challenge to Flores, then they're going to go back to separating families," O'Rourke said.
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