July 17 (UPI) -- Two former officials at the Homeland Security Department and Drug Enforcement Administration testified in the Senate Wednesday to answer lawmakers' concerns about the treatment of families under the Trump administration's immigration policy.
The Senate homeland security committee asked for the opinions of former acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection chief Jayson Ahern and former DEA head Karen Tandy.
Wednesday's hearing comes after months of controversy surrounding the detention and treatment of migrant families along the U.S. border with Mexico.
"We keep presenting this as we have to detain kids or we aren't going to have secure borders," Sen. Maggie Hassan said. "That is a polarity that I reject .... We know separating children from families is wrong."
She added the United States needs to "do the right thing."
Dr. Sharon Cooper, a member of the CBP Families & Children Care panel, said detention causes psychological trauma.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics states that no time is a good time as far as detention," she said. "Once children cross the border, [there should] be a safe place for them to land."
Oregon Sen. Rob Portman called for a long-term solution to the root causes of migration from Central America.
"There is no good solution here unless you deal with the incentives," he said. "You are encouraging these children to leave their homes and come to America, and join traffickers to come to our border. We don't want kids to be detained at all."
Tandy, a Family & Child care panel member, said they have considered adding hundreds of new immigration judges to get through the backlog.
"The surges of these people have overwhelmed a facility meant to keep people for hours. Not days, not weeks and longer."
Four civil rights groups have sued the Trump administration to block a new rule that took effect Tuesday, which seeks to limit the number of asylum seekers. It requires Central American migrants first apply for asylum in any nation they reach before the United States.
Several federal lawmakers toured border facilities last week and later testified on their conditions before the House oversight committee.
"When these women tell me that they were put into a cell and their sink was not working ... and they were told to drink out of a toilet, I believed them," New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said. "This is a manufactured crisis because there is no need for us to do this."
Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan will appear before the oversight committee Wednesday to answer similar concerns.