WASHINGTON — New Jersey's senior U.S. senator let the wails of frightened children do most of the talking Tuesday when he rose on the Senate floor to condemn Trump administration border policy.

Flanked by a large photo of  a crying child, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., played audio of children crying for their parents inside a detention center within the past week. The audio was obtained and released by ProPublica.

He called the policy "a zero humanity policy. A zero compassion policy."

"Seeking asylum is not a crime. It is a cry for mercy. An act of desperation. The trauma being inflicted on these children and the anguish being inflicted on these parents is a direct result of the Trump Administration’s decision to criminalize asylum seekers and persecute families fleeing for their lives," Menendez said.

Under the administration's policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution. The U.S. Marshals Service takes custody of adults while children are sent to Department of Health and Human Services facilities. About 2,000 children were separated from their families during the course of six weeks.

"President Trump is lying to the American people when he says that family separation is the law of the land. He is lying when he says Democrats put a law on the books mandating children be terrorized in this way. Under previous administrations’ policies, families remained together while waiting for their asylum claims to proceed through our immigration courts. But this President has broken with the basic standards of decency that have guided past Administrations – Republican and Democrat alike."

Menendez is seeking re-election against Republican challenger Bob Hugin, and both seem to agree on this issue. Hugin this week called the separation of families on the border "unacceptable" and said the policy should end immediately.

Democrats and Republicans from New Jersey have condemned the current enforcement.

A rally is scheduled at U.S. Rep. Chris Smith's Freehold office on Wednesday by the GRB Women's Initiative to urge the Republican to "truly stand up for the 'innocents' he professes to want to protect."

Smith, in a statement on his congressional website, said he supports legislation to "permanently prohibit the egregious practice of family separation." He called it a practice that is "seriously wrong" and must end now.

U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur broke from his usual support for the president and said the separation of fathers and mothers need

"I believe that we have finally reached a compromise solution in Congress that protects our borders, gives Dreamers a legal path forward without letting them jump the line, and stops the Administration from separating families," MacArthur said in a statement issued on Father's Day.

Trump met with Republican House members on Tuesday and said he supports two bills being proposed to end the controversy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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