Ashley Casale and her 7-year-old son, Gabriel, drove nearly 2,000 miles after the school year ended last Friday in New York to the Rio Grande Valley to see for herself the impact of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and how family separations are playing out on the border.

Ashley Casale and her 7-year-old son, Gabriel, drove nearly 2,000 miles after the school year ended last Friday in New York to the Rio Grande Valley to see for herself the impact of President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and how family separations are playing out on the border.

She said she’s been camped out in front of Casa Presidente, a facility operated by the nonprofit Southwest Key Programs, that houses children who are younger than 10 years old since Tuesday.

After a tour of Casa Presidente and Casa Padre on June 18, Rep. Filemon Vela told reporters that Casa Presidente at that time housed 80 boys and girls, about half of whom had been separated from their parents or parent.

“It’s not just bad for the child, but for the parents, too,” Casale said, as Gabriel ran too far toward Casa Presidente’s property and a security guard interrupted the interview to remind Casale of the line her son couldn’t cross.

Casale, who stood outside an orange tent just off Casa Presidente’s property while her son — who donned a red St. Louis Cardinals cap — threw a baseball in the air and caught it as it came down, said she hoped the nonprofit agency would allow her to tour the facility.

“It’s outrageous,” Casale said of family separations and what she sees as a troubled reunification process. “And I wanted to see for myself, but it’s been tough. I felt the citizen presence was important.”

However, Casale noticed something different Friday afternoon. She noticed a heavy police presence, and said Southwest Key Programs security and Brownsville police turned away some vehicles looking to enter the facility and directed people who may have been employees where to park.

That might be because it’s believed that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was in Cameron County on Friday afternoon to visit Casa Presidente and the Port Isabel Detention Center.

Nielsen’s staff did not respond to multiple requests made by The Brownsville Herald to either confirm or deny the visit.

Nonetheless, right around 4 p.m. Friday, a convoy of unmarked vehicles and at least one Texas Department of Public Safety vehicle arrived at Casa Presidente and quickly made its way to the entrance without any pushback from Southwest Key Programs security or the Brownsville Police Department.

It was apparent they were expected.

Whoever was in that caravan, possibly Nielsen, spent approximately 30 minutes inside the facility. At around 4:20 p.m., DPS troopers, a Border Patrol agent and several plainclothes law enforcement officers came outside and maneuvered SUVs from the caravan in a manner to block cameras brought to the scene by The Brownsville Herald, CNN, the Houston Chronicle and the New York Times from being able to see who exited the building.

Ten minutes later, the convoy quickly left Casa Presidente as someone inside the lead vehicle took photos of Casale, her son and reporters attempting to confirm Nielsen’s visit and conduct interviews.

Earlier that day, around 1:30 p.m., a tan van that appeared to be a law enforcement vehicle sped down Ted Hunt Road near Laguna Vista, entering the oncoming lane to pass two vehicles before turning right onto General Brandt Road.

Then that vehicle suddenly slowed down and stopped on the side of the road before continuing to the Port Isabel Detention Center, where undocumented immigrants are held, and was observed entering the facility.

CNN staffers were camped outside the entrance while CNN Correspondent Nick Valencia was inside the detention center.

“CNN has been allowed access [sic] into the Port Isabel Detention Center immigration hearings this morning. Other outlets have asked, & report being denied access to the public hearings. Our visit will be pen & pad only, no cameras. We will report out afterwards what we saw,” Valencia tweeted Friday.

Around 2:30 p.m. Valencia exited the facility and conducted a live on-air interview for CNN viewers, where he told the story of a 38-year-old Cameroon man who had been granted asylum Friday.

“The asylum hearing we were given access to was for a 38-year-old man from Cameroon who is HIV positive. He was GRANTED ASYLUM APPLICATION. The respondent feared the Cameroonian government and was threatened and detained for being an Anglophone sympathizer,” Valencia tweeted from outside of the detention center.

Anglophone is a controversial term about people who speak English and people who are bilingual that has roots in the country’s colonial legacy.

A CNN publicist declined the Herald’s request to interview Valencia, which was made after he exited the facility and finished his on-air shot, about what he observed during the immigration hearings, saying the correspondent was unavailable.

While Valencia was able to gain access to a facility that is shrouded in secrecy, a tradition of shielding the press and the public from what happens behind the scene continued Friday afternoon with Nielsen, who was believed to be present at the Port Isabel Detention Center while Valencia was inside the immigration hearing, and at Casa Presidente, as law enforcement whisked whoever was being protected in that caravan away from Casa Presidente.

Casa Presidente is one of the facilities that has been the center of so much controversy in the wake of Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and its ripple effect on family separations.

As for Casale, the whole scene Friday left her with more questions than she already had and even fewer answers.

“I mean, if they aren’t even going to let high-profile reporters in, how are we supposed to really know what’s going on?” she said.