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Oregon Democrats blast ‘shameful’ Trump immigration policy

June 17, 2018

SHERIDAN, Ore. (AP) — Democratic members of Oregon’s congressional delegation visited a federal prison Saturday where immigrants from Latin America have been transferred and blasted the Trump administration for separating parents from children.

Sen. Ron Wyden said that “what we saw over the last hour demonstrates that the Trump ‘zero tolerance’ policy makes zero sense and shows zero understanding of American values.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer also toured the facility in Sheridan, Oregon.

“I think this is a shameful moment. It’s outrageous. We are criminalizing people who are persecuted,” Blumenauer said.

Bonamici said children were being taken from their parents’ arms because of federal policies.

About 120 immigrants from Mexico and Central America are reportedly being held at the prison in Sheridan, near Salem.

The administration is sending more than 1,600 immigrants — including some parents whose children were taken from them by U.S. officials — to federal prisons because other jails lack space.

Authorities say immigrants there entered the U.S. illegally.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a zero-tolerance policy involving people crossing the border illegally. As a result, more children are expected to be separated from their parents.

Attorneys seeking to represent the detainees in Oregon have said that they aren’t being given legal representation. The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported that some lawyers were able to meet with detainees on Thursday but not on Friday.

Carissa Cutrell, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency is working to ensure that detainees have appropriate access to lawyers.

The Bureau of Prisons denied an AP request to visit the medium security facility to access the conditions faced by the immigrants.

Cutrell said ICE is committed to connecting family members as quickly as possible after separation so parents know where their children are and have regular communication with them in accordance with ICE policies and detention standards

Earlier this month, Merkley said he tried to enter a federal facility in Brownsville, Texas, where immigrant children are being held, but police were called and he was told to leave.

Merkley was accused of grandstanding by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. The agency said concerns about the safety, security and dignity of the children led to Merkley being kept from the Texas facility.

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