CAMDEN, NJ—Last week, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross was told he had to wait two weeks to visit with children who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of the Trump Administration's "zero-tolerance policy."
On Friday, Norcross, backed by Mayor Frank Moran, state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez and several members of local clergy, announced legislation he helped introduce to allow for members of congress to immediately visit with those children.
Norcross had plans to visit children being housed by the Camden-based nonprofit Center For Family Services when he was told by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the two-week waiting period.
"I was doing nothing more than what's expected and what my obligation is," said Norcross outside of the Mitchell H. Cohen Building and U.S. Courthouse. "As a representative of the House, but also as a father, I wanted to go and see how these children are being treated," he said, adding that the Center for Family Services were willing to allow the visit and that "we have the utmost faith in them."
The Restoring Oversight for Members of Congress Act, which is led by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas would prevent visitation delays and undue obstacles for members of congress who seek access to facilities run by government agencies.
Mayor Moran and Sen. Perez gave speeches in both English and Spanish backing Norcross and the legislation, along with railing against the President Trump's "zero-tolerance policy."
"I am not only the mayor for those that are legal residents within the City of Camden," said Moran. "I am mayor to every single person in this city, regardless of what your status is ... How could you take a six-month-old, a one-year-old, a 13-year-old away from their parents? That is just not American."
Cruz-Perez said she was extremely appalled, calling the policy "heartless" and "cowardly."
"We're better than that. We stand behind Donald Norcross," said Cruz-Perez.
Norcross said is scheduled to visit with the children housed at the Center for Family Services next week.
"Today is about making sure we as representatives are doing our jobs and making sure we have access," said Norcross.
According to a press release, the Restoring Oversight for Members of Congress Act is endorsed by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, Demand Progress and Immigration Hub.