Oregon Sen. Merkley Pushes For Greater Congressional Action For Child Asylum Seekers

It’s been over a year since U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley made his first diplomatic trip to a border facility in McAllen, Texas. Since then, the Oregon Democrat says not much has changed.

Last Friday, Merkley and 12 other Senate Democrats made the trek to a migrant detention center inMcAllen, 

Texas. He said he found child separations were still happening, though he said they are happening at a lower level.

“If the administration says [the] parent has a former traffic citation, or a former cannabis citation, or a former DUI, they will separate the child from the parent,” he said. He added that wouldn’t happen in the U.S.

In addition, he said sleeping arrangements were poor, and provided healthcare was concerning.

“I’ve been pushing for immediately upon our Custom and Border Protection, or border patrol, encountering children to at least check their temperature and ask a few questions about dehydration and illness,” Merkley said.

On July 15, Merkley introduced the Stop Cruelty To Migrant Children Act that would end family separations, and provide sufficient medical support. Around 40 legislators have signed onto the proposal.

Merkley said there’s growing interest from fellow lawmakers, and the most recent trip to McAllen, TX was encouraging.

“To have that large a group collectively see what was going on, not all that dissimilar from what was going on a year before, and be able to talk about it and discuss was powerful and I think it will lead to increased efforts to put an end to it,” Merkley said.

Merkley said he’s pushing for a regular senate committee hearing on the treatment of detained migrant children, but the Republican majority has refused. He co-chaired a shadow hearing with health and legal experts this week that he says deserves to be heard on a grander scale.