Sen. Leahy cites the Holocaust in opposing changes to border law

Greg Nash

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday cited the Holocaust as he argued against a Republican push to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border by amending a 2008 human trafficking law.

“Think of all those Jews that went to the ovens because we forgot our principles,” Leahy said. “Let’s not turn our backs now.”

Leahy said Congress can take action to deal with the surge of immigrants without "watering down our laws or turning our backs on our basic values as Americans.” 

“We can either make good on our laws ... or we can say ‘gee whiz, we didn’t mean it.’ ”

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Lawmakers are divided on how to help the thousands of unaccompanied children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that are being detained along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The White House has asked Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental funding to help temporarily house and feed the children, but Republicans have criticized the plan, saying it doesn’t do anything to stop the flow of immigrants.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has introduced legislation that would amend the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. 

The 2008 law allows authorities to send immigrant children from Mexico or Canada back to their home countries within 48 hours of a screening, but requires that children from Central America and other countries be granted an asylum hearing that can take weeks to set up.

Cornyn said the process has “overburdened” Border Patrol facilities.

“The conditions they are kept in are unacceptable by any standard,” Cornyn said. “Dozens of children are crammed into a cell with one toilet.”

He wants to amend the law to expedite the hearing process. Leahy said Cornyn’s bill would rush the children through a “superficial hearing” process.