Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, joined four other Democratic members of Congress at a remote tent city in West Texas that is holding immigrant teens.
They say that 2,700 immigrant teens are being held there at a cost of roughly $1 million per day.
Merkley, who made headlines earlier this year trying to get into federal centers where immigrant children were held. He ignited an international controversy by shining a light on the administration’s family separation policies. He showed up unannounced at several internment camps in South Texas trailed by a video crew. Merkley did gain entry into at least one camp, where he claimed he saw children locked in cages.
Now he has returned to call attention to what he calls the Trump administration’s “government-sponsored child abuse” at the U.S.-Mexico border.
An untold number of other migrant children who attempted to cross with their parents also have been locked up with their parents, Merkley said.
At Tornillo, they are held in structures meant to house people after hurricanes and natural disasters, according to the person who operates the tent city.
Merkley toured a camp in Dilley, Texas, on Friday where he met Patricia, a Honduran woman who’s been incarcerated with her 15-year-old daughter. The teen is not eating or sleeping due to depression, she reportedly told Merkley.
“The administration is trying to send a message,” Merkley said, “you come here, and we’ll put you through trauma, we’ll put your children through pain.”
On Saturday, he toured a tent city in Tornillo with U.S. Sens. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tina Smith of Minnesota, and California Rep. Judy Chu.
Some suspect his trips to the border are a signal he plans to run for president in 2020, but he said Friday he has not decided.