Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein was arrested Friday for refusing to leave a child detention center in Texas after being told he would not be allowed inside.

“Zak is now a political prisoner of the Trump regime,” read a tweet from Ringelstein’s campaign account Friday morning.

His campaign later said he was being held on a charge of criminal trespass, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. On Friday night, the campaign tweeted that a Texas judge agreed to release Ringelstein on $1,000 bond and that he was expected to leave the facility where he was held later in the evening.

Ringelstein was released early Saturday morning, according to his Twitter feed.

Meanwhile, Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, announced in a tweet Friday evening that she and 20 other members of Congress were flying to McAllen, Texas, “to speak w/ federal officials as well as children + parents who’ve been separated because of the Trump admin’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy.”

Ringelstein, of Yarmouth, announced on Wednesday that he was traveling to McAllen to bring supplies to children separated from their parents under President Trump’s policy of zero-tolerance for migrants who cross the border illegally. Under mounting pressure from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump signed an executive order temporarily ending the separation policy.


Ringelstein’s campaign said he planned to “deliver water, food, blankets, books, and toys to the children imprisoned there,” but it appears he was turned away Friday and then arrested after he didn’t leave. He was arrested after persistently asking authorities to be let into a detention facility. The confrontation was broadcast on his campaign’s Facebook page.

“I refuse, I refuse, I refuse to stand by as you imprison children and bring more children by the dozens into this facility. … It is wrong,” Ringelstein can be heard saying.

Ringelstein is then told that border agents cannot legally accept supplies but that he can work with a recognized charitable organization.

Some members of Congress have had difficulty gaining access, too, so Ringelstein’s attempt was likely never going to be successful.

The 31-year-old New Hampshire native announced in February that he would challenge independent U.S. Sen. Angus King for one of Maine’s two Senate seats.

Republican Eric Brakey also is in the race and offered Ringelstein support in a statement Friday.


“I am committed to the rule of law, but I support Zak’s private effort to make these displaced children more comfortable,” Brakey said. “Americans have a tremendous spirit of generosity and I share his compassion. In contrast, Angus King has done nothing to fix our border in his six years in Washington.”

Ringelstein is a former teacher and aspiring country music singer who moved to Maine two years ago.

The debate over immigration, which has been simmering since even before the 2016 presidential campaign, has escalated in recent weeks with the massive number of children who have been separated from their parents at the border. Protests have sprung up in Maine and across the country and more are planned.

Next Monday, an event is planned for outside Portland City Hall.

Four Mainers who participated in a series of protests this week in Washington, D.C., were arrested for the crime of “incommoding,” or obstructing. Marcella Makinen of Portland, Jessica Stewart of Bass Harbor, the Rev. Dr. Cohen Hayashida of Auburn, and Denise Altvater of Perry, representing the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, were each charged.

“Kids are being held in jails, taken from their families, and remain mired in deep poverty,” Stewart said in a statement. “People of conscience have a moral and legal obligation to take risks to end policy violence against all our children.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

Comments are no longer available on this story