U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) toured border patrol stations in El Paso and Clint, Texas on Friday, where he spoke to detained families who fled violence and saw conditions that he said were inhumane and overcrowded.
Kaine was accompanied by fellow U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and also visited Casa del Refugiado, a shelter run by Annunciation House, which provides migrant families and refugees with meals, showers and a place to stay.
“The people we talked to all have little kids, and they talked about what they want for their kids. They want an education, they wanted freedom from violence and drugs,” Kaine said. “But I asked one person what he wanted and he just said, ‘To not go back. I just can’t go back. I can’t go back to a life that is so violent that I fear for my child.’”
Kaine and Hirono highlighted the “cruelty and incompetence” of the Trump administration’s policies that have torn families apart, made it nearly impossible for refugees to apply for asylum and mistreated children at the border.
“This administration, from long before Inauguration Day, during the campaign, but then since Inauguration Day, just in one step after the next, has pursued a harshly anti-immigrant agenda that is painful,” Kaine said.
Kaine and Hirono spoke about how migrants will continue to come from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador because of the widespread violence in those countries.
“They want a better life for themselves and their families just like any other immigrant family. Certainly that was the case for me when my mother brought me to this country so that she and her three children could have a new start and better life,” Hirono said.
Hirono also called the immigration system “rigged,” “dysfunctional,” and “inhumane.”
Both Kaine and Hirono want to reform the asylum process so the U.S. isn’t turning everyone down immediately or forcing people to wait in Guatemala while they apply for asylum. “I think we should work with the Northern Triangle countries. Our country cannot continue to impose the cost of what’s happening on other counties,” Hirono said.
Both senators are co-sponsors of the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, a bill that would create clear, non-negotiable standards for the treatment of children in the United States’ care, including ensuring children are treated humanely and moved out of detention centers and into community-based settings as soon as possible.
Kaine and Hirono have also co-sponsored the Central American Reform and Enforcement Act to tackle the root causes that are forcing many families from Central America to seek refuge in the United States.