WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today joined Women’s March leaders in a protest at the Hart Senate Office Building, demanding an end to cruel Trump administration policies that have inflicted pain on children in a strategy to deter asylum-seekers.
Merkley also got a provision today in a key spending bill that would require accountability from the administration about the reunification of more than 2,000 children who are still separated from their families. That bill passed the committee today in a 30-1 bipartisan vote.
Additionally, Merkley introduced a new resolution calling on the administration to establish an office dedicated to coordinating across agencies in order to reunify these families as quickly as possible. The resolution was cosponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Tom Carper (D-DE).
“The outcry from across America forced President Trump to back down from his initial cruel strategy, but now is the time to keep the pressure on,” said Merkley. “Family internment camps in the desert, in which children are traumatized alongside their parents, are not acceptable in America. And it’s imperative that the administration reunites these 2,000 children with their families as swiftly as possible—so I’m heartened that the Senate is speaking up on a bipartisan basis to demand accountability.”
Merkley’s provision in the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) annual spending bill directs the administration to provide weekly reports to Congress on the status of separated children who are in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is a division of HHS. It also states that children and parents should be able to communicate regularly by phone and find each other.
Full text of the language the Merkley got inserted into the 2019 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill is available here, in the section labeled “Unaccompanied Alien Children.” The full text of Merkley’s resolution is available here. And a photo of Merkley at today’s rally is available here.