Corker defends Central American migrants: 'They're being tortured'

Corker defends Central American migrants: 'They're being tortured'
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.) on Thursday defended the Central American migrants fleeing their home countries and attempting to seek refuge in the U.S.

“There’s unbelievable corruption. They’re being tortured,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman said amid a new push from President TrumpDonald John TrumpHarris bashes Kavanaugh's 'sham' nomination process, calls for his impeachment after sexual misconduct allegation Celebrating 'Hispanic Heritage Month' in the Age of Trump Let's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy MORE to lock down the southern border. “They’ve got the worst, impractical leadership ever in some of these countries.”

“I have a feeling that if you were living in one of these Central American countries and you had little girls and little boys you're raising you might be trying to figure out a way to come to the great United States of America,” Corker told the audience at the Chattanooga Rotary Club.

Estimates on the caravan’s size have varied, but analysts suggest there could be between 5,000 and 7,000 people heading toward the U.S. as they flee violence and poverty in Central America.

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Corker, who is not running for reelection, said that his party has been using news of a migrant caravan heading toward the U.S. southern border as an attempt to stimulate the GOP base ahead of next week’s midterm elections.

"We all know what's happening. It's all about revving up the base, using fear to stimulate people to come out at the polls," Corker told reporters in Nashville on Wednesday.

He also laughed off suggestions from some on the right that the group of migrants were being funded by a wealthy Democratic donor. 

“If anybody’s funding it, it's some Republican donor, because it has obviously turned into an election issue that has benefited the Republican side," Corker said.

Trump has seized on the migrant caravan ahead of the midterms, ordering troops to the U.S.-Mexico border and saying the group of migrants is "made up of some very bad thugs and gang members."

Trump has also floated the idea of trying to end birthright citizenship through an executive order — a claim that has been dismissed by multiple legal experts.

Corker said on Wednesday that he did not believe Trump had the power to change birthright citizenship, which is granted in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

"That's not possible. It's a constitutional amendment and you cannot — thankfully, for our country, regardless of what the issue is — you cannot change the Constitution by executive order. I do think we should look at the issue, though," he said.

Corker has not endorsed Republican Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe evolution of Taylor Swift's political activism Kellyanne Conway responds to Taylor Swift criticism by invoking pop star's lyrics Is there internet life after thirty? MORE in her race to replace him

He told the Chattanooga crowd that he was friends with both Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen and thought they would both be a good senator to Tennessee. 

Blackburn is leading Bredesen, a former Tennessee governor, by 8 points, according to a poll released Thursday.