WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley released the following video statement regarding his ‘no’ votes on both the House and Senate versions of border funding packages. The video of the statement is available here on Twitter and here on Facebook.
Merkley recorded the video statement just moments before heading to the Senate floor for the votes.
“In five minutes, I’m going to be heading to the floor to vote on a border package prepared by the House of Representatives. This package is much better than the Senate package in a number of ways, but I’m still going to be voting against it, because neither the House nor the Senate have addressed some of the fundamental issues affecting children.
“Right here on today’s New York Times [there’s a] horrific picture of a father and daughter who drowned crossing the Rio Grande. Now what people may not know [is] that they came to an official port of entry as refugees and they were rejected and sent back into Mexico through a policy called ‘metering.’ This refusal to allow entry to refugees is leaving children in horrific circumstances across the border, without friends, without family, without resources—and so then families say, ‘we have to escape those circumstances,’ and tragic things happen, like the death of this father and this little girl.
“The bills—nether one of them—addresses the Homestead for-profit prison in Florida. It’s a mega-child-migrant prison designed now to hold 3,200 children—there are about 2,400 there right now—so thousands of children in a single facility. None of the standards for limiting the stay of children being locked up in prison and in an unlicensed facility, apply to this influx facility in Homestead, Florida. Children can be locked up indefinitely right now. They should be subject to the 20 day Flores settlement agreement that says children have to be transferred to state-licensed facilities and then gotten into homes, so they can be in a playground, a school, a home, as they await adjudication of their asylum status. And what’s more, that prison is a for-profit prison. It is paid about 750 dollars a day per child. It has every single incentive to keep children locked up rather than facilitating their movement to a settling in a community.
“This mistreatment of children is at the foundation of the administration’s strategy—they came out with this strategy in March of ‘17, saying that if we treat children in this fashion, inflict trauma, it will discourage immigration.
“There is no moral code or religious tradition that enables us to mistreat children—and certainly not to use them as pawns in a political power play. We need to address these fundamental issues, and those issues are not addressed in the House bill or the Senate bill. And that’s why I’m going to be voting no on both in a few moments.”