Schumer Floor Remarks On Report Of Sexual Assault And Inhumane Treatment Of Migrant Children At The Border, The White House’s Social Media Summit, Today’s All-Senator Briefing On Election Security, And The Stakes Of The Health Care Lawsuit, Texas V. United States

July 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding a new report of sexual assault and inhumane treatment of migrant children at Arizona border stations, the White House’s social media summit, today’s all-Senator briefing on election security and the need to take action to prevent interference in future elections, and the stakes of Texas v. United States. Below are his remarks which can also be found here.

Now, Mr. President, a new report from NBC News last night details the inhumane treatment of migrant children at the Arizona border stations. Allegations of sexual assault, retaliation by Customs and Border Protection officers, overcrowding, lack of showers, lack of clean clothes, lack of space to sleep. The accounts made by dozens of children at these facilities are horrifying, and are completely unacceptable.

In the wake of several similar reports about the treatment of migrants by CBP officers in Texas; in the wake of revelations of secret Facebook groups where border patrol officers joke about the torrid treatment of migrants; it is abundantly clear that there is a toxic culture at Border Patrol that can only be changed by the immediate firing and replacing of top leadership at the agency. CBP needs to clean house. The top people at CBP ought to be fired, now.

The Acting Commissioner, Mark Morgan, in just a few days on the job, has already shown himself to be far too callous about the way in which children and their families are treated. We need committed law enforcement professionals, particularly those that have training and expertise in working with vulnerable populations, to take the helm of CBP. There were rumors that Mr. Morgan was chosen because he’s a tough guy, a tough guy on kids, a tough guy who will tolerate an out-of-control culture in many parts of the CBP. The perfectly wrong choice for what’s going on there. And I’ll say this to President Trump: he’s not going to help you. Whatever Americans’ views are on immigration, they don’t like pictures of little children in squalid and awful conditions, whoever they are.

Now, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, who oversees CBP, needs to take this matter into his own hands. He has shown far more balance, far more expertise, and far more ability to talk about the truth, not some ideology, than Morgan or some of the others. And he should take this matter into his own hands, and pursue changes to the agency that go beyond mere investigations and reports. CBP needs a real change in personnel and in leadership, and it needs it now. The reports by NBC News and many others are a stain on this great nation. We’re not perfect. We’re a lot better than most anyone else. But in the past, when there’s a problem, we don’t revel in it. We try to solve it. We cannot allow what’s happening at the border to continue.

Now, on another matter. A few weeks ago, it was reported that the author of a blatantly, virulently anti-Semitic cartoon depicting the Rothschilds and Soros was invited—actually invited—to a social media summit at the White House. Up until yesterday, when the White House was asked questions about why he was invited, there was no answer. Reportedly, some in the administration privately defended the invitation of this out-and-out bigot. Only last night, when it all became public, did the White House finally revoke the invitation, but it is an absolute disgrace—disgrace—that it was extended in the first place, and that it took so long to rescind. And it is a disgrace that the White House has not rescinded the invitations for several other individuals planning to attend who have spewed hateful and bigoted views online.

The plain truth is this: this president, this administration, is shockingly willing to provide succor to some of the most hateful ideologues, ideologies and viewpoints. The President has promoted white supremacists on his twitter feed while constantly criticizing social media platforms for removing hateful content. In doing so, he’s defended people like Alex Jones and his detestable, conspiracy-ridden radio show. The idea that everybody should be able to post on social media sites no matter how disgusting the content is wrong, in my view. When vicious, racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic hate speech is posted online, social media sites–as private companies–should be able to remove that content.

But this president, amazingly, seems to believe that when offensive language is coming from a right-wing source, and it’s taken off the social media site, that that’s censorship. That’s the message this social media summit seeks to advance, and it’s un-American. Un-American.

At the same time, we hear the White House and Congressional Republicans all too eager to decry anti-Semitism when they perceive it in a political opponent on the left. Well, where are those folks when the White House does something like this? Where are they? It seems some of our friends on the other side of the aisle want to politicize the issue of anti-Semitism, which should be condemned when anybody talks about it. But, unfortunately we’ve heard silence from our Republican friends when this virulently anti-Semitic cartoonist was invited to the White House. Not a peep. And what he did was despicable, reminiscent of what was done before dictatorships took over in Europe.

The White House was right to revoke the invitation. It never should have been issued in the first place. A social media summit designed to give support to the most radical viewpoints on social media should never have been planned by the White House in the first place. It should be obvious, but with this president, unfortunately, the obvious bears repeating: the President of the United States should appeal to the better angels of our nature, not provide support to the basest voices in our society. It’s another reason that this presidency is just a disgrace, a disgrace, in terms of American values, American mores, American honesty.

Now, on election security. Later this afternoon, members from both sides of the aisle will take part in an all-Senate briefing on the threats faced by our elections in the 2020 campaign cycle.  We are all no doubt aware of the general threat to our elections from foreign interference, but it is crucial to hear from our law enforcement, defense and intelligence communities about the specific nature of those threats—and just as important, probably more important, how we can counteract them, how we can prevent foreign interference in the 2020 election. Which everybody, regardless of party, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative—we should all be against it. This is one of the things the Founding Fathers were most afraid of; that foreign powers would seek to interfere in our elections. And it didn’t seem too much of a problem for decades, centuries. But, it’s now reared its ugly head—by the way, showing the wisdom, the amazing wisdom of the Washingtons, and the Madisons, and the Franklins, and the Founding Fathers.

The briefing we’re having should serve as a turning point for this chamber—it should focus our attention and spark an urgent debate over how to protect our democracy from future attacks. The briefing this afternoon should be a springboard for action.

And so, I was amazed to listen to Republican Leader McConnell this morning, who, before the briefing has even taken place, seems to be pre-judging the results of the meeting, saying that another Washington intervention in this matter is misguided. I was amazed to hear Leader McConnell take credit for the election security funding that Democrats fought tooth and nail to include in the appropriations bill, and was initially opposed by many of our Republican colleagues. And to skip over the fact that Leader McConnell and Republicans are blocking, right now, our efforts to include additional resources this year. Leader McConnell, if you’re bragging about putting it in in 2017, and the FBI says the threat in 2020 is greater, why aren’t you letting us put more money in now? Why aren’t you supporting that? It makes no sense. Contradiction, once again. And here, amazingly enough, we hear Leader McConnell echoing President Trump, blaming President Obama for the interference in the 2016 election.  Blaming President Obama. The Russians interfered. They certainly had conversations with the Trump administration. President Trump encouraged them to interfere publicly. And now, Leader McConnell has the temerity to blame President Obama? What a remarkable feat of revisionist history.

Let’s be clear on two things: First, President Putin interfered in our elections and he is to blame. Second, the Trump Administration has not done enough to hold him and his oligarchs accountable. President Trump recently, when he met with President Putin, sort of made a joke of it. That’s disgraceful. That’s un-American. That’s not defending the security of America.  And now, according to reports, we learn that the majority leader refused to work on a bipartisan basis to warn the public about Putin’s interference in our elections in the midst of the 2016 election—and he blames President Obama when he was the one that didn’t want to make it public? Give us a break.

We have a duty to country to take this seriously and not whitewash the facts or prejudge the conclusions. This is about protecting the wellspring of our democracy. It’s not political. And, ensuring Americans’ have an absolute faith that our elections will be free and fair. It’s unbelievable: in this Trump administration, unlike any administration, Democrat or Republican before it, interference in the election by a foreign power is made political. It’s a disgrace.

I hope today’s briefing provides members with specific information about what the departments and agencies are doing to combat the threat to our elections and what we ought to do next. After it concludes, we cannot let this issue sit on the backburner. Democrats and Republicans alike must roll up their sleeves and get to work, the Majority Leader included.

Health care. Finally, as oral arguments continue today in Texas v the United States, we must not lose sight of what is at stake here. Republican attorneys general, with the Trump Administration’s full support and backing, are trying to dismantle our health care system. They are arguing that millions of Americans, including 133 million Americans under 65 who live with a pre-existing condition, should lose their care and their protections. The lawsuit that President Trump supports, and our Republican colleagues refuse to condemn, would say to a mother or father with a child with cancer: ‘If the insurance company wants to cut you off, tell you you can’t get the treatment your kid so desperately needs to live—that’s okay. That’s okay.’

Where are the Republicans voices?

We all know the statistics, but there is a human cost and a human story behind each one. Emilie is one of my constituents, and I shared her story on the steps of the Senate yesterday. She was healthy and active, a vibrant young girl, at seven. But her life was turned upside down after a tragic accident. She fell off a horse and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Emilie had to re-learn how to walk, how to talk, how to eat. Seven-year-old.

The biggest challenge Emilie’s family faced was when her private insurance said to her: ‘Sixty days of rehab, Emilie, then you’re out. Doesn’t matter if you can’t still feed yourself, doesn’t matter if you can’t walk. We’re out.’ But she was saved—because of Medicaid. Medicaid stepped in and the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions prevailed. And now Emilie has a great chance in the future. Do we want to tell Emilie’s parents that we want to cut this off? What is wrong with our Republican friends here?

It is the height of hypocrisy for Republicans to pledge support for Americans with pre-existing conditions during the campaign season, and then are silent as the Trump administration sues to take away all the protections. I call on Senate Republicans, for the sake of the Emilies and the millions like her, to speak out against this reckless lawsuit, a lawsuit that would spell disaster for millions of hardworking, fine citizens in this country.