A Democratic senator wanted immigration officials who testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell her whether or not they would send their children to the Family Residential Centers that temporarily house children while their adult parents or custodians are prosecuted for entering the country illegally.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Matthew Albence told the senator, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, that she was missing the point.

“These individuals are there because they have broken a law. There has to be a process,” he said.

Hirono insisted they have “broken a law only as deemed so by the president.”

“No, ma’am. They’re there for violation of Title 8 of the U.S. and Nationality Act,” Albence said. “OK? They’re 8 USC 1325 — that’s illegal entry — is both a criminal and civil violation.”

He explained that the children are in the Family Residential Centers “pending the outcome of that civil immigration process.”

“They have broken the law,” said Albence, an executive associate director for ICE.

Hirono responded that it was her understanding that under President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, the handling of illegal immigrants was a criminal matter.

Albence explained.

“There were criminal proceedings when the border patrol prosecuted them, but at the conclusion of that process, once the individual came into ICE custody, they would go through administrative proceedings,” the ICE official said.

Hirono responded: “I’m confused.”

Albence explained: “The criminal proceeding is the individual being prosecuted for the criminal violation of improper entry.”

Section 8 U.S.C. 1325(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which makes illegal entry a criminal violation, was codified in its current form in 1991.

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