WASHINGTON, D.C.—Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement today after President Biden signed an executive order creating a task force to reunify families separated by the Trump administration’s diabolical ‘zero tolerance’ policy:
“I remember when my kids were small and playing outside, and the second of panic I’d feel if I turned around and didn’t see them on the playground. Now imagine that trauma stretched out for months or years on end. For as long as I live, I will never forget the pain in the faces of the parents I spoke with whose children were taken from them, often in tears. They had no idea of where their kids were, if they had their medications or clean clothes or anyone to comfort them, or when they’d be together again. And I can’t even bring myself to imagine the terror and sense of abandonment the children have experienced.
“Intentionally inflicting that kind of unspeakable trauma on parents and children is completely unforgiveable. While we will never be able to erase the atrocities committed against families by the Trump administration, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to reunify the families that were ripped apart, provide victims with the legal support and trauma-informed health care they need, and hold perpetrators accountable.
“I’m gratified that the Biden administration is bringing moral clarity and urgency to the task of reuniting every family that was separated. I look forward to continuing to work with the President and his newly formed task force to ensure that these reunifications come to fruition, and am calling on Congress to fully meet any anticipated funding needs immediately to avoid any further delays in reuniting and caring for traumatized children and families.
“I will also continue to push for the comprehensive, compassionate reforms we need to restore the asylum process and put critical health and safety provisions in place for the vulnerable men, women, and children who are in our care. Anything less would be a morally reprehensible abdication of our responsibility to treat every human being with dignity and respect—and a failure to answer the American people’s demand for change.”
Merkley has led the charge in Congress to reunite families and hold the Trump administration accountable for its failure to do so, after first exposing the horrific child separation policy in June 2018, when the police were called to prevent him from investigating a huge former Walmart turned child detention center in Brownsville, Texas. Merkley returned to the border an additional six times; visited Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America; and released a detailed report outlining how President Trump used federal agencies to turn away thousands of people who have a legal right to ask for refuge within the U.S. from gang violence, murder, rape, and extortion in their home countries.