This morning on CNN’s New Day, host Alisyn Camerota had Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (D) on to tout his recent political stunt at an immigration detention center in Texas as well as to comment on the White House’s response to his stunt.
The White House claimed that “Senator Merkley is irresponsibly spreading blatant lies about routine immigration enforcement.” When Camerota asked the Senator to respond, he said:
No its not routine. They have a new policy. They started a pilot project last summer. Now they have implemented it completely of taking away children from parents when families are seeking asylum, even when they present themselves legally at border posts.
This is simply not true. The practice of separating children from their families at the border is not a Trump administration policy but rather is derived form a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. As National Review reported, the court ruled that minors brought across the border with their family cannot be held in custody for more than twenty days. The Trump administration has implemented a policy of prosecuting all instances of illegal border crossings. Thus, if illegal immigration cases of parents who brought their children take longer than twenty days, immigration officials are required by this ruling to separate the parents from their children.
If Senator Merkley wanted to rectify this injustice, he could start drafting legislation to make it illegal to separate families in custody instead of stumping on CNN for political points.
Camerota continued through the White House’s statement: “He voted against closing the catch and release loopholes used by child smugglers.” When pressed about whether he had voted against these loopholes, Merkley said:
No. This is an old claim the administration used when they had the Grassley amendment that had all kinds of unacceptable modifications of immigration policy. It was basically the president's plan with none of the things we were fighting for to help the dreamers. So, no, listen, all of these are about turning the attention somewhere other than their new policy of ripping children away from their parents.
Not only did he repeat the lie that this is a new Trump administration policy, but he made the absurd claim that the Grassley amendment had “all kinds of unacceptable modifications of immigration policy.” The Grassley amendment was proposed by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. Along with appropriating 25 billion dollars for border security, the bill included “unacceptable modifications” such as limiting chain migration, closing the aforementioned loopholes, and providing a path for citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers. Senator Grassley’s website say regarding the amendment:
Second, our amendment provides a generous and permanent solution for up to 1.8 million DACA or DACA-eligible recipients. Our plan contains an earned path to citizenship for these young people. Provided these young men and women have no criminal record and either serve in the military, attain a college or vocational degree or maintain fulltime employment, they can eventually gain citizenship. This represents a major concessions [sic] for many Republicans, including me, but this concession is necessary to provide a permanent and fair solution to this issue.
The Grassley amendment provided border security while also finding a place for the Dreamers. This seems like something that Senator Merkley would love given that he later stated in this interview “I have advocated for closed borders” and “we were fighting for to help the Dreamers.” Instead he referred back to the classic leftist talking point that the Republicans are unfeeling and don’t care about children.
Camerota failed to challenge the Democrat with basic facts that ran counter to his liberal narrative. Instead, she simply teed him up to bash the administration and promote his agenda.
Below is a transcript of this segment.
CNN's New Day with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman
7:33:19 a.m. Eastern
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Okay on Sunday, Senator Jeff Merkley was blocked from an immigration detention center in Texas where he thinks hundreds of children are being detained without their parents. The White House is now trying to blame Senator Merkley for this policy somehow. So joining us now is Senator Jeff Merkley. Senator we had you on Monday just after you had tried to enter that detention center. You were blocked by officials from doing so even after you showed your congressional credentials. Were you ever able to get in and see what was happening inside there?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY [D-OR]: No. I wasn't getting in. A supervisor did come out to talk to me. But when he came out he said he wasn't able to actually converse about anything that was going on inside the facility. So I neither got in nor did I get any information about the details of what was happening with those children.
CAMEROTA: Do you still think 1,000 children are in there without their parents?
MERKLEY: Well, we don't know the number for sure because that's the -- we have heard from others that's the guess about how many are inside there. It’s one of the questions I wanted to ask. How many children are here? how long have they been there? How many came unaccompanied to the United States? How many were taken away from their parents. Do you have the medical support? Do you have the psychological support for these children who experienced trauma? I couldn’t – I didn't get any answers.
CAMEROTA: Well, the White House is very, seems to be, very upset about you trying to expose this story. They put out a statement. And I just want to go through it line by line because there are so many incendiary claims about you in this statement. Here we go. Senator Merkley is irresponsibly spreading blatant lies about routine immigration enforcement. Let’s stop right there. Is it routine to have hundreds of children?
MERKLEY: No its not routine. They have a new policy. They started a pilot project last summer. Now they have implemented it completely of taking away children from parents when families are seeking asylum, even when they present themselves legally at border posts.
CAMEROTA: But hold on one second Senator because this is a really important point. This also happened under the Obama administration and I believe the Bush administration. So what is different than what's happening now?
MERKLEY: Well what I think you are referring to as unaccompanied children under those administrations. These are children who were accompanied by their parents being taken away from their parents when they are seeking asylum. That is new. That is different. That has not been done before.
CAMEROTA: Ok, here’s the next sentence of their statement from the White House. He --, you voted against closing the catch and release loopholes used by child smugglers. Did you vote against the closing catch and release loopholes of child smugglers?
MERKLEY: No. This is an old claim the administration used when they had the Grassley amendment that had all kinds of unacceptable modifications of immigration policy. It was basically the president's plan with none of the things we were fighting for to help the Dreamers. So, no, listen, all of these are about turning the attention somewhere other than their new policy of ripping children away from their parents.
CAMEROTA: They would go on to say you and your reckless open borders policies are responsible for the permanent separation of thousands of American families who have been forced to bury their loved ones. Do you know what they're talking about and why they are blaming you for this? These deaths.
MERKLEY: This is the open borders argument they use against anybody who criticizes the treatment of children. Certainly I have advocated for closed borders from when I first ran for senate that we need to strengthen our borders. We need to strengthen our system of law. We need to use our Visas in appropriate fashion. This administration is just determined to sling mud to distract from their policy. Of course I'm encouraging the media; Don’t let them do it. Go back and talk to them directly about this policy of ripping children away from their families at border points when they are presenting themselves for asylum.
CAMEROTA: We will do that when we have an opportunity.