Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry

Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry
© Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats barrel toward August voting rights deadline Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Ore.) led a group of Democratic lawmakers to the southern border in Texas on Sunday amid growing backlash against the Trump administration's policy of separating families who have crossed the border illegally. 

Merkley was joined in McAllen, Texas, by Sen. Chris Van HollenChristopher (Chris) Van HollenOvernight Energy: Major oil companies could face billions in climate taxes under new Senate bill Senate Democrats to introduce measure taxing major polluters Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (D-Md.), as well as Texas Reps. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms The Hill's Morning Report - Biden's next act: Massive infrastructure plan with tax hikes These House lawmakers aren't seeking reelection in 2022 MORE (D), Vicente González (D), and Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeRep. Al Green, Texas state lawmaker arrested outside Capitol during voting rights protest Rep. Bush drives calls for White House action on eviction moratorium lapse Photos of the Week: Olympic sabre semi-finals, COVID-19 vigil and a loris MORE (D). 

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Democratic Reps. David CicillineDavid CicillineThe State Department should rethink its Turkey policy McCarthy jokes it'll be hard not to 'hit' Pelosi with gavel if he is Speaker Lobbying world MORE (R.I.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchShakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Democrats debate shape of new Jan. 6 probe On the Money: Tech giants face rising pressure from shareholder activists | House Democrats urge IRS to reverse Trump-era rule reducing donor disclosure | Sen. Warren, Jamie Dimon spar over overdraft fees at Senate hearing MORE (Vt.), and Mark PocanMark William PocanLawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Overnight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight House panel advances 6B Pentagon bill on party-line vote MORE (Wis.) also traveled to the border on Sunday. 

The group of lawmakers toured the Customs and Border Protection processing centers and looked to find out more information about how the agency processed immigrants illegally entering the U.S., including the Trump administration policy that prosecutes parents crossing the border illegally, thus separating them from their children.

The visit on Sunday was billed by organizers as "#FathersDayofAction." 

 

 

"Here's what's going on. It's a comprehensive strategy of preventing people from seeking asylum. So at the bridges, those who already have documents, passports and so forth are let in while those seeking asylum are kept in the no man's land between Mexico and the United States," Merkley told CNN. 

"And so they're going to cross the border and that's where the administration is saying 'oh, they broke the law crossing the border outside the border checkpoint. Now we'll arrest them and treat them as criminals and take their kids away. I have also heard though, of a number of stories of people who did cross at the official checkpoints who have also been charged with a crime and separated from their children," he continued. 

"This is a deliberate and inhumane policy, and we're here to say to President TrumpDonald TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party MORE, end it and end it today," Van Hollen said in the same interview. 

Merkley made headlines earlier this month when he shared a video of him attempting to enter an immigration detention facility in Texas. He was ultimately turned away by officials. 

The lawmakers' visit on Sunday comes as the administration scrambles to defend the policy in the face of growing backlash. 

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE invoked the Bible to defend the policy on Thursday, urging law and order at the border, while President Trump blamed Democrats for the policy on Friday. 

"The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!" the president tweeted.  

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE issued a series of tweets on Sunday, denying that the administration had a policy of separating families at the border. 

"This misreporting by Members, press & advocacy groups must stop. It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry," Nielsen said. 

"You are not breaking the law by seeking asylum at a port of entry," she continued. "For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between 'family' members, or if the adult has broken a law."