Matthew Albence, an executive associate director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, described recreational and health care opportunities available at detention facilities and said he is "very comfortable" with the service they provide.
Trump's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting migrants entering the U.S. without authorization, his separation of more than 2,500 children from their parents, and botched efforts to reunite many of them has drawn election-year criticism from both parties. More than 700 children remain separated, including more than 400 whose families have already left the U.S. without them.
Officials from ICE and Health and Human Services said they keep records of migrants who have been detained and have documentation of parents who left the U.S. without their children.
Commander Jonathan D. White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, who is coordinating efforts to reunite divided families, called a family's decision to leave children behind "a desperate last act of a parent" that he said is "unfathomable until you've walked in those parents' shoes."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, defended the officials and said Congress was also to blame for the administration's problems with handling the separated families. He said congressional critics "offer no plausible or workable solution at all."
Trump began his policy of "zero tolerance" this spring, prosecuting all migrants caught entering the U.S. without authorization. To help discourage border crossing, his administration also began separating children from their detained parents, rather than following the policy used by previous administrations, which generally released the entire family pending court action.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a deadline of last Thursday to reunite the families. While he commended administration officials for reuniting many parents in its custody with their children, it faulted them for leaving hundreds of families still apart and warning that a better system must be in place.
The senators' letter, based on articles by The Associated Press and other news organizations, says the allegations suggest "a long-term pattern" of mistreatment. Those reports describe claims of abuse from this year dating back to before Trump took office and include accusations of sexual and other forms of assault at some facilities.
The AP reported last month that children held at an immigration detention facility in Roanoke, Virginia, said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked in solitary confinement and left nude and cold in concrete cells.
A civil rights lawsuit has been filed alleging mistreatment at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center from 2015 to 2018. The alleged victims, Hispanic youths held for months or years, have submitted sworn statements in the case. Lawyers for the facility have denied the alleged abuse.