What I saw at the border
PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich addresses a community event in Las Cruces after visiting sites along the Southwest border that have been at the center of President Trump's family separation and "zero-tolerance" immigration policies, June 22, 2018.
President Trump's decision to take children as young as infants and toddlers away from their parents as a form of punishment or deterrence is morally indefensible. The trauma these policies are inflicting on families, many of whom are already fleeing violence and seeking asylum, is horrific.
As a father, I could not just sit by. I joined Senators Tom Udall and Richard Blumenthal on Friday to visit the border and hold the Trump Administration accountable for their policy of separating children from their parents. What I saw had a profound impact on me and gave me a renewed resolve to fight for policies that treat children and families with humanity.
We learned that there are over 250 teenagers being held in a temporary "tent city" detention facility in Tornillo, Texas. We met with families detained at a Border Patrol station in El Paso who told us about their difficult journeys and the violence in their home countries they are desperately trying to escape. At the Paso del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, we received an overview of the process for asylum seekers and learned that the Trump Administration's actions are creating an unnecessary delay on asylum claims for those fleeing violence and persecution. Afterward, I joined hundreds of New Mexicans at unity events calling for an end to family separation in Las Cruces and Albuquerque.
Thousands of children were taken away from their parents since President Trump's family separation policy went into effect, and only about 500 children in custody have been united with their families since the policy was ended last Wednesday. This is entirely a crisis of the President's own making. I am calling for congressional hearings and will continue to press for a plan from the White House to reunite every single family as soon as possible.
I take heart in knowing how many New Mexicans have spoken out to say this is not what we stand for. I've never felt a groundswell of humanity and decency like I have in the last week. I will continue to do all I can to hold the White House accountable and fight for policies that respect the dignity of immigrant families, recognize the real needs of our vibrant border communities, and live up to our true American values.
United States Senator