Between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Mr. Brown and Ms. Schultz had flown to El Paso, Tex., where on Sunday they visited a 500-bed shelter for migrants run by a charity affiliated with the Catholic Church.
Unlike government-run shelters whose overcrowding and squalor have been in the news, the Casa del Refugiado was clean and airy. “Esperanza,” or hope, was painted on the wall of a large room with Red Cross cots.
The director, Ruben Garcia, told the visitors that the shelter held asylum-seekers released into the country by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to await hearings in immigration courts, which have a yearslong backlog. The migrants, most from Central America, stay only a few days at the shelter, until relatives from around the country send bus and plane tickets.
As several dozen new arrivals filed in, mostly young mothers with small children, Ms. Schultz, who said she was reminded of her grandchildren, grew emotional. “You love your children; can you imagine doing anything to save their lives? Of course you could,” she told a reporter.
Mr. Brown said he had been denied access to government detention centers even as a United States senator. “Pretty clearly the attorney general and the president and the president’s cabinet don’t want the American public to know what they’re doing when they separate children from families,” he said, winding up his visit with a small news conference.
Asked about decriminalizing illegal entry into the country, an issue embraced by some 2020 candidates that exposes Democrats to charges of being for “open borders,” Mr. Brown said that he was no expert. “I don’t work on immigration issues every day,” he said. “This is an important part of our country, I wanted to know more about this issue.”
Earlier, he had pitched a squishy baseball to two young boys taking batting practice in the shelter’s nursery. Ms. Schultz picked up a 10-month-old baby named Herman in a green onesie. His mother, crayoning in a coloring book, was awaiting a bus ticket to join relatives in Iowa.
“I could just stay here and babysit,” Ms. Schultz said happily.