WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, who set off a national firestorm by shedding light on the child separation policy and other human rights abuses being committed by the Trump administration along the southern border, released the following statement today after meeting virtually with Alejandro Mayorkas, President-elect Biden’s historic nominee to lead the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS):
“America has long taken pride in being a beacon of hope for persecuted men, women, and children from around the world—a place of opportunity and freedom, where honest work paves the way toward a better life. That’s why Americans in every corner of our country were appalled by the Trump administration’s cruel and vengeful treatment of migrants along our southern border—which included gutting the legal asylum process, sending vulnerable asylum applicants to dangerous towns in Mexico to await their hearings, and ripping children from their parents’ arms with no plans to reunite them.
“It’s long past time for major changes at the Department of Homeland Security to restore human rights and decency on our soil. I appreciated the chance to meet with Mr. Mayorkas today to discuss needed policies and reforms—like ending any form of child separation; implementing strong health, nutrition, and education standards for all children in DHS custody; restoring respectful treatment of all refugees pending adjudication of their cases; and undoing Trump’s authoritarian secret police tactics and assaults on peaceful protestors across our nation.
“I look forward to continuing to work with Mr. Mayorkas throughout the upcoming confirmation process, and will do all that I can to ensure that the incoming administration delivers on its promise to treat every human being with dignity and justice.”
In June 2018, Merkley exposed the Trump administration’s child separation policy when the police were called to prevent him from investigating a huge child detention center in Brownsville, Texas in a former Walmart. He has since returned to the border six times; visited Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of Central America; led the charge to reunite families and hold the Trump administration accountable for its failure to do so; 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.