WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after legal advocates revealed that dozens of children are illegally being detained indefinitely at a family internment camp in Dilley, TX:
“The fact that these children are being held for months on end in an internment camp is outrageous and unconscionable. We know that even a short time spent in detention settings can bring about lifelong trauma. Children belong in homes, parks, and neighborhoods, not locked up in internment camps.
“These children’s detention would be horrific at the best of times, but it is all the more disturbing and unacceptable at a time when our nation faces its worst pandemic in decades. I have been to Dilley and seen the conditions myself. There is no way for families to maintain proper social distancing while living in crowded bunks. A facility like Dilley is an outbreak waiting to happen, and it is irresponsible and dangerous not to move as many children as possible out of these facilities as quickly as possible.
“The Flores settlement requires DHS to make prompt and continuous efforts to release children as soon as possible, and never to detain them for more than 20 days. As a result, the administration’s actions here are both immoral and illegal. I strongly urge DHS to free these children immediately, and I am calling on the DHS Inspector General to investigate these flagrant abuses.”
In June 2018, Merkley set off a national firestorm when he went down to the border to expose the administration’s child separation policy and was turned away from a child detention center in Brownsville, TX. Merkley has continued to be a vocal advocate for families and children who are fleeing persecution abroad. In December 2018, Merkley led a congressional delegation to investigate the conditions at Dilley and two other detention facilities in Texas. He is also the author of the No Internment Camps Act, legislation that would shut down Dilley and other family internment centers in the United States; the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act; and a congressional amicus brief urging the courts to uphold the Flores settlement in the face of Trump administration efforts to gut it.