Floor Action

Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor

Senate Democrats protested President Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policies, warning that Wednesday's executive order keeping migrant families together will only worsen the situation along the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Democrats, speaking from the Senate floor for roughly two hours, warned that the new policy raises fresh questions and warned it could result in the indefinite detention of children. 

"If you can imagine it what this executive order does is raise the possibility of children being in prison for very, very long periods of time. ...Does anybody really believe that we should be prisoning for an indefinite period of time little children," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats. 

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, added: "This president's executive order does not solve this problem. It makes it worse." 

In addition to Durbin and Sanders, Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) Michael Bennet (Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) Kamala Harris (Calif.), Ed Markey (Mass.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) spoke from the floor. 

The string of floor speeches comes after Trump signed an executive order that requires that detained immigrant families are kept together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."

The "zero tolerance" policy implemented by the Trump administration had resulted in the separation of immigrant parents and children when they were being detained along the border. 

Hirono recounted that when her mother left Japan she had to leave Hirono's three-year-old brother behind temporarily. 

"My younger brother left behind in Japan never really recovered from the trauma of his separation from his mother and his siblings. My mother always had deep sorrow about having to leave her baby behind," she said. 

The policies had sparked bipartisan backlash on Capitol Hill, where Republicans publicly called on Trump to back down as the issue spiraled into a political crisis. 

Kaine argued that the policy "triggered our moral gag reflex" 

Though Republicans have largely been supportive of the executive order, Democrat argued it would only make the problem worse and likely immediately being challenged in court. 

"It sounds like a return to the shameful internment camps of the 1940s during World War II during one of the darkest chapters of our nation's history," Markey said. "It was a mistake. That we should not even contemplate repeating." 

Democrats also raised concerns that the executive order did not address families that have already been separated, and would not help locate children who have already been placed in custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Kaine recounted the story of a father who was separated from his family when he was taken into custody and committed suicide. 

"As we try to reassemble 2,300 families that this Administration has spread to the winds, there will be at least one three-year-old boy who will not be able to reunite with his father," Kaine said. "I ask this President, I ask the Attorney General, I ask the Secretary of Homeland Security: Was it worth it?" 

-Updated at 8:59 p.m.

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