Merkley: Border ‘Not Closed’; Situation ‘Is Approaching a Crisis’

Une famille se repose à San Pedro Sula, au Honduras, lors de son voyage aux États-Unis le 14 janvier 2021. (Photo par ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP via Getty Images)

A family rests in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on their journey to the United States on January 14, 2021. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images)

( – « Is it fair to call what we’re seeing at the border a crisis? » CNN’s Alisyn Camerota asked Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-Ore.) on Thursday morning:

« Well, it’s approaching a crisis, » Merkley admitted.

What we have is a surge of children. More than half of them were the children that were stranded for months, some for years by the Trump administration in Mexico under completely intolerable circumstances. And now that the border is not closed, they’re knocking on our door.

And you had a set of policies that were determined to treat children very poorly, so you didn’t have the — essentially the systems in place under the Trump administration and the Biden administration is creating those systems, and they’re doing it with a completely different vision — a completely different vision from the Trump administration.

Members of the Biden administration are touting their « humane » approach to immigration, but at the same time, they are telling would-be asylum seekers that now is not the time to come to the U.S.

The asylum seekers, however, are coming by the tens of thousands, and unaccompanied children are being welcomed in to overcrowded holding facilities until they can be sent — at taxpayer expense — to relatives or sponsors in the United States:

Merkley said the Biden administration is working overtime to « quickly move these children into sponsored families. »

And they’re doing that by putting case managers on overtime. When sponsors can’t afford the plane tickets, they’re paying for the plane tickets, they’re trying to make sure that the children spend the minimum amount of time in these Border Patrol stations, where the circumstances are totally inappropriate for children. So they’re operating with the right heart.

As you note, is that going to cause more to come north? Well, the administration is certainly recognizing that that’s a challenge. But who are we as a nation? Are we going to return to the Trump strategy of deliberately mistreating children? Absolutely not.

So we do have to have the process to be able to adjudicate these cases, go through and say, do you really qualify for asylum? Do so in a timely manner. Because doing so in that fashion will also send a message and affect the flow of individuals.

Merkley said if parents and children throughout Central America do start coming north, « then we’ll see a — a real crisis. »

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