Two Democratic senators vowed to continue to shine the spotlight on the Trump administration's policy of separating children from parents who enter the U.S. illegally.
Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., went on a tour Sunday of a former Walmart store in Texas that's been converted into a detention center for nearly 1,500 immigrant boys.
Their comments came during a Monday interview on CNN's "New Day."
Asked how he plans to end the separation policy, Merkley said: "Well, the biggest thing right now is to shine a spotlight on it. We have seen the evangelical community starting to weigh in, the southern Baptist community starting to weigh in. … And we are starting to tear away some of the fallacies the administration is conveying to the American people."
He said in some parts of the border with Mexico, the U.S. has essentially stopped people from seeking asylum – creating serious problems.
"They are in an impossible situation because to remain on the Mexican side is to be subject to gang attacks because they are so vulnerable," Merkley said. "So, then they decide to cross between the ports of entry and the administration says: 'See, they're breaking the law. We're criminalizing this. We're arresting them. We're putting them in handcuffs. We're throwing them in prison and taking away their children.'
"So, this is an all-out assault on the concept of those fleeing persecution getting a fair chance to present their case for asylum here to the United States."
And Van Hollen said separating parents and children is not working.
"First of all, it's pretty clear this is not working in terms of stemming the folks who are fleeing for their lives from violence," he said. “This is a big motivator.
"We talked to many moms who fled with their kids. So, it's not having that effect. What we have done in the past is keep these families together through the asylum process. One of the things we should do is increase the number of asylum judges so people can get their hearings. But at least the families would be kept together," Van Hollen said.
Merkley, in an interview on "CBS This Morning," said he had first traveled to Texas two weeks ago because he found it hard to believe the stories he was hearing about the separations.
"I came because I heard these stories of children being ripped out their parents' arms,” Merkley said. "I thought, that can't be true here in America -- that families awaiting asylum, fleeing persecution are then being persecuted her in the U.S.
"I found out yesterday that it's true."
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