Earlier this month, Oregon senator Jeff Merkley visited the Texas-Mexico border. It is difficult to minimize the horror of what he witnessed.
Outside a dead Walmart Supercenter, Merkley was escorted by the police away from the facility without being able to witness the conditions inside.
We know thousands of children are being held in prison camps such as this facility. These children range in age from babies to teens. If a sitting senator is not permitted to see the conditions in this facility, what are they trying to hide?
Elsewhere, Senator Merkley also witnessed children in dog kennels, with nothing but space blankets — no beds, no cots, no mattresses, no books, no toys. Nothing.
This is part of a falsely labeled zero-tolerance policy on the part of Donald Trump and his cronies. The words “zero tolerance” imply an illegal act — the reality is that many of these families have come to the United States for a legal reason: seeking asylum.
This is a human right under international convention for people who are living in fear for their lives. Many who enter at the southern border come from countries with horrible human-rights records such as Honduras. Every one of these people should be given the right to plead their cases in front of an immigration judge.
This is not happening.
Children are being ripped from their parents and held in cages, unregulated foster homes, Walmart-like facilities, and military bases in order to force their parents to give up the legal right to asylum.
To quote one of the ACLU attorneys representing some of these families, “Our clients did everything by the book and still had their children taken away from them.”
These children are being held hostage. Their parents are being pressured to plead guilty to illegally entering the U.S., and many will return to situations where they face threats of death in order to be reunified with their only treasure: their children.
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When Donald Trump began his assault on the political process, he attacked Mexicans at every campaign rally. Immigrants have been vilified again and again. His administration has encouraged and emboldened white supremacists at every opportunity.
We cannot allow the continued dehumanization of brown- and black-skinned people. The three major atrocities that involved wrenching children from the heart of their families are the slave trade, the treatment of Native Americans, and the Nazis.
If we are unable to stop the imprisonment of these children, who will be next?