Originally published by Politico
House Progressive leader Pramila Jayapal will join a “caravan” of migrants seeking asylum as they try to enter the United States from Tijuana on Saturday afternoon — an attempt to spotlight what Democrats view as the inhumane effects of President Donald Trump’s border crackdown.
The Washington Democrat, a rising star in the House Democratic Caucus, flew to the border Friday and is gathering information on the treatment of migrants from Central America by both Mexican and U.S. authorities. In the afternoon she will follow a group of migrants trying to claim asylum to ensure they’re getting a fair shake, she said.
“The president is lying about this caravan, he’s fear mongering,” Jayapal said in a Friday interview before her trip. “He’s trying to use people who are seeking asylum and literally running from death just for his own political benefit and that’s a disgrace.”
The newly elected House Progressive Caucus co-chair added: “He created a crisis at the border.”
Jayapal’s visit comes amid a tense standoff at the border. The president railed about the dangers of “the caravan” — a group of mostly women and children migrants from Honduras — on the campaign trail in the final days of the mid-term elections. The president has tried to limit asylum claims including by executive order but has been rebuffed in part by the courts.
Earlier this week, migrants were sprayed with tear gas as they tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border — one of the key reasons Jayapal decided to make the visit.
“When I read the report about a week ago that kids and moms were being tear gassed, I just couldn’t sleep,” Jayapal said. “I want to go see for myself what is happening, what happens to asylum seekers as they get to the border, how are they turned back, what’s happening to them in between, where the conditions in which they’re living.”
Jayapal has made several trips to the southern border in recent months. She was the first lawmaker to visit federal prisons housing migrant children who were taken from their parents or carers during Trump’s family separation initiative.
Hill Republicans, while expressing outrage about Trump’s family separation policy, have done little to counter his immigration crackdowns in recent years.
This particular trip, however, comes as power is shifting in the House. Investigators on the House Oversight and Judiciary panels are gearing up to probe Trump’s immigration policies, including family separation and his use of troops at the border. And Jayapal said she would bring back her findings to her colleagues in the House.
Indeed, Jayapal, whose goal Saturday is telling the stories of migrants fleeing from persecution, said she would present her finding to Democratic investigators. The Judiciary panel, of which she is a member, is already spinning up to probe “who gave these orders and how it violates our Constitution,” she said.
“We’re going to dive into all of that because this is a central role of the Judiciary Committee, to have oversight on these issues, to make sure we’re in line with our Constitution and our internal human rights obligations,” she said. “We’re in violation of that on a number of fronts as far as immigrants go.”
Jayapal’s trip is mostly focused on the Mexico side of the border. She crossed into Tijuana on Saturday morning and is meeting with both advocates on the ground and Mexican officials. She’s visiting migrant shelters women and children as well as LGTBQ migrants who have been separated from the rest of the marchers and are being kept in “horrific” conditions, she said.
Jayapal blames Trump for those conditions, arguing that large groups like the caravan have showed up at the border before without these sorts of issues. But Trump, she said, is “forcing Mexico to create these conditions for people who are seeking asylum.”
“There is international and domestic law that governs that process that we are violating, so I put 95 percent of the blame on this president,” she said.
After the crossing attempt, she’ll meet with advocates and international law experts in the U.S.