Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today gave the following remarks at a press conference after the 13-member Senate Democratic delegation toured southern border facilities in McAllen, Texas. The delegation included Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR), Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senator Angus King (I-ME) , and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV). The senators started with a tour of the Donna Holding Facility in Donna, TX, then they visited the Catholic Charities Respite Center led by Sister Norma, toured the McAllen Border Patrol Station, and the Rio Grande Valley Centralized Processing Center, in McAllen, TX. The Congressional delegation also had a conversation with local volunteers, immigration lawyers, nonprofit leaders, faith leaders, and local officials from McAllen, Texas. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here:
“Well thank you everybody. It’s been a very, very difficult day. To see these people, particularly the children, treated in such inhumane conditions just tears at your heartstrings and really makes you feel awful. They let us see whatever we wanted to see, but we were told that they tried to make things look better the day before. 400 people were taken out of one facility yesterday. But even with that, it’s awful conditions that these people are placed in. The sad truth of it is, that we saw one good place. That’s not the sad truth—we did see one good place, run by Catholic charities and Sister Norma, where the people were treated well, where they had a path where they could be adjudicated properly, and given a shot, given a fair shot. But the rest of the facilities weren’t close to that. And the damn shame of it all is it comes from the top. If the policy-making from the top changes, there could be many more facilities like the Catholic charity’s facility we saw, which was really, not great, but certainly decent. Rather than the facilities like this, where it’s just awful, awful, awful to see how these people are being treated.
“We asked Secretary McAleenan what percentage of these people are criminals. Miniscule – two percent, three percent, but they’re treating them all like criminals. And if you listen to the president, you’d think they were all criminals. They’re not. They’re people simply seeking some safety, some honor, some decency for their children. And second, you’ll say, ‘what’s your solution?’ We have a solution that could work. It’s a horrible trek—we talked to people going through this long trek, most of them took more than a month with their tiny little children with them. Let them apply for asylum in Honduras, in Guatemala, and El Salvador, and things could be fairer and a lot easier. We need more immigration judges, of course. And we need some help to go after the gangs, but that is so much of a better solution than what we saw here, and we’re going to fight very hard for it.
“You know, the people we saw today could have been our parents, or our grandparents, or our great-grandparents, or our great-great-great-great-grandparents. They could have been Irish, or German, or Italian, or Jewish, or anybody else. And each time these waves of immigrants came, there were certain Americans who decided to divide and be nasty. But America overcame that, and united. And all of these generations became really fine Americans who we’re proud of. We hope and pray, we beseech the American people, rise to the occasion, do what Americans and generations before have done, and reject those who viciously, nastily, or for political gain, seek to divide us. Unite us for a greater America.”