MSNBC guests Stephanie Cutter and Michael Steele called the U.S. centers housing illegal immigrant children "concentration camps" on Friday.
The Trump administration recently announced a "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting immigrants who come across the border illegally, meaning illegal immigrant parents are temporarily separated from their children at the border. In cases when parents decide to return home, the separation can be less than a day; however, when parents apply for amnesty, they are sometimes kept in custody for weeks.
Cutter, who served as Deputy Campaign Manager for Barack Obama's 2012 presidential campaign, disputed the Trump administration's claim it was the "law" to separate children, calling it an "interpretation."
"We can't find a solution to this problem without harming children? Without putting them in concentration camps?" Cutter asked.
"I call this a concentration camp for kids," Steele said. "When you give kids 22 hours of lock-up time, and two hours of air time, what else can it be? And if this is where this country's going, the American people need to wake up and pay attention, because your kids could be next."
President Donald Trump blamed Democrats on Friday for the measures, saying he "hates" separating children and parents. He claimed Democrats could change the law if they joined Republicans on immigration reform.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said Thursday he also didn't want to separate children and parents, and he circulated potential legislation that would end the practice.
"If Paul Ryan had an ounce of courage, or remembers who he used to be a couple of years ago, he would stand up against these concentration camps with kids," Cutter said, noting the House speaker had stated he was against it. "How about using your powers as the third branch of government to stop it? It is not up to Democrats coming to the table."
NBC reporter Jacob Soboroff visited a Brownsville, Texas, facility where more than 1,400 migrant children are being held, and he likened it to a prison, saying the boys there are effectively "incarcerated."
The boys there are given two hours of outdoor time on weekdays, three on weekends, and do not sleep in "cages," as previously reported. Soboroff compared the building setup—a former Walmart—to a "dormitory structure" in an interview, and he reported the average stay there for the children is 52 days.
CNN reported the shelter had a "warehouse vibe" and said the rooms for children contained five cot-like beds where there should be four. CNN also reported on "scores of staffers" leading boys to various activities:
In recreation rooms, some boys watched a soccer match on TV; some took part in a tai chi class; others played pool or foosball (in one case with a cue ball). Still others sat in classrooms. Because of the crowding, the boys attend school in six-hour morning or afternoon shifts, five days a week. The bedrooms reporters were shown seemed antiseptically clean.