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'Nobody is holding them against their will': Rep. Jim Hagedorn's border comments spark backlash

The Congressman addressed constituents last week in Rochester.
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Minnesota Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn faced backlash for his comments about conditions on the U.S. southern border at a recent Rochester town hall.

Addressing the audience at Rochester Community and Technical College last week, one constituent asked 1st District Rep. Hagedorn why he supported what they called “government-sponsored child abuse.”

Hagedorn pushed back on the accusation and the comparison of detention centers at the border to concentration camps, prompting some boos from the crowd.

But it was his comments that followed that gained widespread attention on social media.

“The people there, they can leave. Nobody is holding them against their will,” Hagedorn said.

This drew another negative response from the crowd as well as on social media, with one town hall audience member asking him how a young child is expected to just get up and walk out of a detention center.

"Fair enough," Hagedorn said. "You want them reunited with the parents and.the parents can make the decision."

As The Daily Beast notes, children and adults being held in immigration detention centers can't leave unless they're eligible for and pay a bond while their removal proceedings go through the immigration court.

The freshman congressman then went on to lay out his stance on immigration. He said he welcomed the millions of legal immigrants living in the country, who he said able to immigrate because “we had a system of legal immigration that is the best in the world and the most generous in the world.”

He said he supports an “orderly, systemic process” and claimed a majority of asylum seekers do not show up for court hearings, a claim previously uttered by VP Mike Pence that has since been rated "4 Pinocchios" by the Washington Post's fact-checkers.

“I support securing America’s borders,” Hagedorn went on to say. “I support physical barriers to make sure we have an orderly system to ensure when people come into the country, they come through checkpoints.”

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Hagedorn recently voted in favor of a bill that granted federal funds to provide migrants at the border food and shelter. The legislation drew criticism from progressives who said it didn’t go far enough to improve the treatment of refugees. 

Following the town hall, protesters gathered outside of Hagedorn's office in Rochester Tuesday to oppose conditions at the border. According to Fox 47, the protest drew around 140 people. 

You can watch the immigration segment of Hagedorn's town hall here:

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