U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8) discussed the “dire” circumstances regarding President Donald Trump’s (R) “zero-tolerance” immigration policy at the border of the United States and Mexico, causing hundreds of families to be separated.
“Basically, they brought us in, put us in a small room, much smaller than this, and set the five individuals in front of the seven [House] members and basically we heard their stories,” Sires said during an interview at his West New York office late this afternoon.
He began by recounting what he saw at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, one of many centers across the country that are contracted with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), on Father’s Day.
“Four of the five individuals handed themselves in across the border – they walked into the office and turned themselves in. They were not here to take American jobs, they were not here to create mischief: they were here because their situations at home were so awful,” Sires explained.
“One particular fellow was telling me that he had a small business, a fishing business, with his partner and they were being shaken down by the gangs. The partner was killed and the gang went to his daughter’s school.”
The veteran congressman continued that the man, who was originally from Honduras, fled his homeland after gang members went after his daughter – albeit unsuccessfully.
“If he stayed home, he would’ve been killed,” he said succinctly.
Not surprisingly, Sires, like most Democrats in Washington, called for an end to Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, exclaiming that there are currently over 2,000 children that have been separated from their parents.
Sires is one of several House Democrats sponsoring a peace of legislation this week that would halt deportations, therefore preventing families from being split up.
“Well basically it stops them from deporting them and splitting up the families: that’s one thing that it does. The other thing is that it reduces the penalty from when they come over … situations like this are heart wrenching: when you see grown men cry in front of you because they can’t see their children.”
Sires also pointed to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, which made it through the Senate but was not posted in the House.
He feels that piece of legislation, which would’ve added 40,000 immigration patrol agents and made it possible for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status, would’ve solved most of these problems: included the wall between Mexico and the U.S. Trump has spoke of.
As it stands today, the Cuban-born federal legislator said he doesn’t see any solution in sight on that specific issue.
“At this moment: I don’t see a solution. At this moment, this week, they’ll be some bills, and unless they bring a bill up that is acceptable to both sides, I don’t see a solution to this problem. I think the solution is that the president stops this practice.”
At the tail end of the interview, Sires said that no one from the White House has reached out to congressional leaders for a compromise as of yet and that they claim they are simply following the letter of the law.
“They just keep saying that this is the law and that they’re gonna enforce the law. And meanwhile, families are being split up: children are being sent places [where] they don’t even know where they are. And this continues,” he said.
“This situation is so dire where these people are coming from, they’re willing to risk everything to come and get asylum: they’re asking for political asylum.”
In a White House news conference earlier today, Trump blamed the country’s immigration struggles on the Democrats (h/t NBC News).
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility … not on my watch,” the president stated.
“Immigration is the fault, and all the problems that we’re having because we cannot get them to sign legislation, we cannot get them even to the negotiating table, and I say it’s very strongly the Democrats’ fault.”