U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver was among several members of Congress barred from attending a Thursday meeting in which U.S. immigration authorities discussed recent arrests.
“I pulled the door open and someone inside pulled it shut,” said Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat. “I got only one leg in” before stepping back from a closed door.
Cleaver and other lawmakers had been invited by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to attend a meeting that the caucus had requested in a letter last week to Thomas Homan, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
Cleaver was showing up to ask Homan for information on rumored plans for raids at Kansas City area churches last Sunday. Though talk of anticipated sweeps on illegal immigrants was rampant, none occurred.
More than a dozen other members of Congress were allowed to sit in on the ICE meeting. As reported by The Hill, attendees included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
At least two caucus members were told to leave the meeting room in the Capitol’s visitors center after Cleaver and others had the door closed on them.
“This meeting was called by the people who were kicked out,” said Cleaver, referring to the caucus.
ICE had scheduled an open session but canceled it when the Department of Homeland Security requested an invitation-only session.
According to a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, Homeland Security asked for “a small bipartisan briefing that was...limited to members with jurisdictional interests in immigration enforcement.
“We are confident that the (caucus) chair is capable of representing the views of her caucus, and this arrangement was made very clear to (the caucus) ahead of time,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong told The Hill.
But Cleaver said he’d never experienced such a standoff during 12 years in Congress.
“This is the new Washington,” he said. “I’ve never seen chaos like this.”