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Sen. Merkley Condemns Trump's War Against Migrant Families as U.S. Moves to Indefinitely Jail Kids

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SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Yes. So, this was a development where people within that office forwarded an email that laid out the policy. It's an internal policy that they're shifting people off those 40,000 cases. In one sector, they say completely shutting down new cases; the other, they said there would be very few new cases. I was attacked by a member of the administration for spreading false information. I simply was reporting what was in the administration's email as to their plans. This means thousands and thousands of people will have their proceedings suspended.

AMY GOODMAN: We just came from the Arizona border, the Arizona-Mexico border, on Monday. We were there in Sonora and Nogales and learned about the metering firsthand and the number of people who are coming through the border, allowed to come through now, around six to eight, if they are lucky, a day, with thousands waiting. People in Mexico, who are stopped in Mexico, are living in the graveyards. They're homeless. They're fleeing gang violence, afraid their kids will be kidnapped as they stay there. Is this legal? As President Trump talks about "illegal" immigrants and talks about invasion, are these actions legal?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: So, the president says, "I don't want people crossing between ports of entry. Come to the ports of entry." And this has been something Jeff Sessions said when he was attorney general and others in the administration said: "Just come to the ports of entry." But at the port of entry, the administration has erected a blockade. I first witnessed this on the bridge down in Hidalgo-Reynosa border crossing, our border guards across the middle of the bridge, blocking anyone from coming across who didn't have a passport in other words, anyone who was a refugee.

The result is that families are stranded, as you're saying, on the Mexican side of the border. And that means without funds, without family, without friends. They're incredibly vulnerable. There are gangs that prey upon them. And now the administration has created this system where they have an informal accounting called the book. And the book is sometimes run by drug gangs. It's run in all kinds of different ways. But it is essentially, you have to register in this unofficial book and wait for your number to be called. And so it's another form of exploitation.

But it's all in contravention of the vision of the Refugee Convention, because the Refugee Convention is, if you are fleeing persecution and you knock on our door, we will give you safe harbor while we examine your case. That's what an asylum case is. In this case, we're saying, "We will not give you safe harbor. Sorry, you're stuck in Mexico. Good luck. Maybe in a few months we'll talk to you." And it puts enormous people at risk.

It makes me think of the St. Louis. The St. Louis was a ship in World War II that had some 900-plus refugees from Germany. It came. It wasn't allowed to dock in the United States. The result is, it eventually went back to Germany, and about a fourth of those refugees died in the Holocaust. We are, in this case, stranding people who are knocking on our door in very, very difficult circumstances.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, that was during FDR's administration. A bipartisan immigration problem we've had for decades. We're going to continue with Jeff Merkley, Democratic senator from Oregon, member of the Appropriations, Environment and Public Works, Budget, and Foreign Relations Committees. His new book is called America Is Better Than This: Trump's War Against Migrant Families. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: "Cumbia Campanera" by legendary Mexican cumbia musician Celso Piña. Piña is a self-taught accordionist who began performing in the '70s. Over the years, he became known as the "accordion rebel," as his distinctive take on cumbia blended hip-hop, rock and northern Mexican rhythms. Celso Piña died of a heart attack Wednesday in his home city of Monterrey. He was 66 years old.

This is Democracy Now! I'm Amy Goodman, as we continue to cover the Trump administration's move to indefinitely jail migrant children and their families. We're speaking to Oregon Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley. In June of 2018, the senator made headlines after he was barred from entering a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, where the government was jailing about 1,500 children. Operators of the Southwest Key facility called the police on the U.S. senator.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: I haven't been asked to leave the property, but I'm guessing that's about what's to happen.

POLICE OFFICER: Yeah, sir, I think that's what they're going towards. What was your name again, sir? I'm sorry. Senator"?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: Senator Jeff Merkley.

POLICE OFFICER: Jeff.

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY: U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

POLICE OFFICER: Merkley.

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Democracy Now!  is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program hosted by journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on (more...)
 
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