WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to inflict cruelty on migrant children and families, released the following statement after voting against a package to provide more money for the administration’s activities at the border:
“There is no doubt that we are facing a difficult and dire situation at the border. The administration’s actions and President Trump’s repeated threats to close the border have created a surge in people legally seeking asylum at our borders, generating overcrowded facilities, poor health services, and a shortage of resources for overstretched non-profits performing critical humanitarian work. I appreciate my colleagues’ efforts to work in good faith to address this humanitarian crisis, and I commend Senator Leahy for doing everything he can to make sure that this bill is an improvement for children and families.
“But unfortunately, much more needs to be done to address the plight of families and children fleeing persecution.
“First, we need to end the blockading of children who are trying to seek asylum at our southern border. The Trump administration’s policy of pushing these children back into Mexico leaves them extremely vulnerable to abuse and violence in some of the most dangerous cities in the world.
“Second, we need to get kids out of unlicensed ‘temporary’ influx facilities, like the one the Trump administration is operating at Homestead. We must apply the Flores settlement guidelines to Homestead, which require children to be moved out of prison-like facilities to state-licensed facilities in no more than 20 days.
“Third, we need to ban for-profit contractors from running child prisons. The operators of these sites should have every incentive to get children out of detention and back into homes, parks, and schools—not to keep them imprisoned in pursuit of profits.
“Fourth, we must eliminate the administration’s ability to share information about potential sponsors for these children with ICE. This information sharing has been used to intimidate and scare away potential sponsors, resulting in more than 13,000 children being imprisoned today.
“Without these changes, President Trump and his administration will use increased funding to lock up more children and inflict suffering on thousands. We cannot allow America to become a nation that systemically locks up and traumatizes children for political purposes.”