Democratic Senator barred from immigrant detention by cops slams Trump’s “morally bankrupt” policies

Democratic Senator barred from immigrant detention by cops slams Trump’s “morally bankrupt” policies


Originally published by Salon

A viral Facebook Live video shows Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., facing police on Sunday when he tried to visit a detention center for immigrant children who had been forcibly separated from their parents. In the video, Merkley can be seen visiting a former Walmart building in Brownsville, Texas which had been converted into a building for holding the children of immigrant families that had fled to the United States. The facility is one of 27 that are run by Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit that runs shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children in Arizona, California and Texas. Merkley claimed that he attempted to visit the Brownsville facility by making arrangements through the proper channels but was unable to do so and even found himself unable to get a direct answer about how many children were being held at the Brownsville facility. This is what prompted him to engage in a public confrontation, resulting in a police officer escorting him off of the property.

Merkley opened up to Salon about his experience on Sunday night, as well as about the Trump administration's policy of splitting up families in order to dissuade undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

"The policy's premise is that hurting children will be useful in deterring families from seeking asylum in the United States. Damaging children in an effort to reduce families seeking asylum is absolutely immoral. It is a horrendous, horrendous policy," Merkley told Salon. "We have always treated families seeking asylum — who by definition are families who have gone through horrific circumstances overseas — with graciousness. We are a nation of immigrants coming from all corners of the world and many of our ancestors came here escaping persecution. So now trying to dissuade people from coming to the United States by hurting their children is morally bankrupt and out of sync with the soul of America."

The mechanics of the Trump administration's policy was best summed up by The Washington Post:

Trump’s policy may split up an untold number of families. Minors are not allowed in criminal jails, where adults are held when they’re charged with crimes related to crossing the border. Children are sent to separate facilities, which are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. This happens even if their folks present themselves at official ports of entry and declare that they are seeking asylum.

Merkley also discussed with Salon a theme that he mentioned during his viral video — namely, that the Trump administration doesn't want people seeing the children inside of the facility because the heart-wrenching images would make for terrible publicity.

"I think this is part of a strategy to prevent the public and our decision-makers from seeing what’s really going on. These doors are closed right now, which I think is symbolic of what the administration is doing," Merkley said in the video.

Merkley echoed these thoughts when speaking with Salon.

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