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Cortez Masto, Rosen visit Texas border to see 'zero-tolerance' first hand

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On Monday morning in Brownsville, Texas, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, tried to get into a private facility where several dozen immigrant children are being held.

An official with the facility, "El Casa Presidente," run by the non-profit group Southwest Key, turned her away, later telling Cortez Masto and an assembled group of reporters they were on private property.

“So that tells me that they're overloaded. They don't know what they're doing. They can't reunite these kids with their parents. And rightfully so, we should be questioning that and demanding more of these answers,” Cortez Masto said.

Among the other stops on her Texas tour was the Port Isabel Detention Center run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where the government places adults who have crossed the border.

“Literally Jeff, it's a prison. It looks like a prison. It looks like the Lovelock Prison in Lovelock,” the Senator told News 3 by phone.

Lawmakers are traveling to Texas to see what a hard line on immigration looks like. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, was there to see another detention center: a tent city in Tornillo, Texas.

The Trump administration may have stopped separating families, but its "zero tolerance" policy officially remains. All adults crossing the border are supposed to get arrested, but the New York Times reports that on Monday, overwhelmed border agents have stopped handing people over to prosecutors until legal issues and logistics get cleared up.

On Saturday in Las Vegas, the president was unapologetic. He accused Democrats of playing immigration politics.

“I love the issue for the election too. Our issue is strong borders, no crime. Their issue is open borders. Let MS-13 all over our country. That's what's gonna happen,” President Trump told the Nevada Republican Party’s state convention.

RELATED | President Donald Trump says he has to be 'very strong' on immigration

MS-13 is the violent Central American gang Democrats say the President uses to stoke feat about immigration.

Cortez Masto says it’s exactly that violence in their native countries that forces families to make the long journey to the United States. She told me about one mother she met Monday in detention who came from Honduras.

“They had been threatened with death or harm to the child. So she made the decision to leave her country and cross, what, 3,000 miles of rough and dangerous terrain to a safe place," said the Senator.

The policy of family separation is not popular with Americans as a whole. But the polls show the majority of Republicans favor a get-tough approach.

“Like the hordes that are challenging all the countries in Europe right now, we’re being challenged at our southern border and it will destroy America eventually,” said Washoe County Republican Roger Edwards, whom News 3 met at the Nevada GOP Convention on Friday.

Last week, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, joined other Republican senators behind a measure that would end family separation, which the President did last week with his executive order. Trump only acted after the practice was met with bipartisan condemnation.

“Senator Heller believes that the executive order was a good first step, but that Congress needs to pass his legislation to make the policy permanent as well as authorize additional immigration judges and beds at family facilities,” said Heller’s office in a statement.

In the meantime, the issues of immigration have gone from simmer to sizzle, as Cortez Masto leaves Texas for Washington. News 3 asked her what she plans to do with what she’s been seeing.

“Continue to demand that this administration stop this zero tolerance policy. Demand that this administration reunify, work to reunify these families,” Cortez Masto said.

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