Merkley leads Dem lawmakers to border amid migrant policy outcry

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

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyThe border deal: What made it in, what got left out Lawmakers introduce bill to fund government, prevent shutdown Dems wary of killing off filibuster 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 HollenGOP braces for Trump's emergency declaration Senate buzz grows for Abrams after speech electrifies Dems Abrams offers progressive counterpoint to Trump in Dem response MORE (D-Md.), as well as Texas Reps. Filemon VelaFilemon Bartolome VelaHow Pelosi is punishing some critics while rewarding others New Dem caucus chairman: Some wall is good, but not new wall Border lawmakers press Trump to beef up existing security MORE (D), Vicente González (D), and Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Five takeaways from acting AG's fiery House hearing Democrat to acting AG: 'We are not joking here' MORE (D). 

ADVERTISEMENT

Democratic Reps. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineForeign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' Greedy tort bar tarts up the CREATES Act Whitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers MORE (R.I.), Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Bipartisan House group heads to Camp David retreat Dems unveil bill for Medicare to negotiate drug prices MORE (Vt.), and Mark PocanMark William PocanHannity decries Green New Deal as 'economically guaranteed-to-be-devastating' Ocasio-Cortez unveils Green New Deal climate resolution Trump’s AIDS turnaround greeted with skepticism by some advocates 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 John TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job 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 SessionsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight The Memo: Trump and McCabe go to war McCabe book: Sessions once said FBI was better off when it 'only hired Irishmen' 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 NielsenTrump taps FEMA official to lead agency Unscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? 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."