Dem senator: Trump border policy 'designed to traumatize these kids'

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyBusiness groups urge Congress to combat LGBTQ discrimination in workplace Overnight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Will Washington finally do something about high drug prices? MORE (D-Ore.) accused the Trump administration on Friday of designing federal immigration policy with the intent of "traumatizing" children of migrant parents who come to the U.S. seeking asylum.

In an interview Friday morning with CNN's "New Day," Merkley said that the Trump administration was failing to properly care for asylum applicants by detaining them instead of releasing families with children into the U.S.

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"You're doing something that's totally unnecessary, it's designed to traumatize these kids to send a message to the world: 'Do not, if you're fleeing persecution, come to the United States,' " Merkley said. "

The Oregon senator criticized the Trump administration during the interview for detaining families in detention facilities rather than allow the use of the Family Case Management System, a pilot program shuttered by the Trump administration that assigned a caseworker to asylum applicants released into the U.S.

Immigration activists have touted the program's success rate when it comes to asylum applicants showing up for hearings.

"It's a program that the Inspector General of Homeland Security said that 100 percent of the families showed up for their hearings," Merkley told CNN.

"We had a program that worked. The United States government, President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE, shut it down," he added.

Merkley's comments come as the senator is leading a delegation to the border to investigate conditions at child detention facilities operated to house migrants the Trump administration says crossed the border illegally.

His visit comes as Customs and Border Patrol announced late Thursday that a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl had died from dehydration and shock while in U.S. custody.

“Our sincerest condolences go out to the family of the child,” CBP spokesman Andrew Meehan said Thursday.

“Border Patrol agents took every possible step to save the child’s life under the most trying of circumstances,” Meehan said. “As fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, we empathize with the loss of any child.”