Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) claimed on Wednesday that members of White House under President Donald Trump’s administration brainstorm daily on new ways to harm illegal immigrants.
“I think that the Trump Administration people sit around every single day thinking of new ways to be cruel to these migrants,” Hirono told host MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “That’s what they do and tomorrow they will probably come up with something else.”
Hirono’s remarks were in response to a line of questioning regarding the conditions of the nation’s largest family immigrant detention center, which is located in Dilley, Texas. The Hawaii senator had visited the facility in December 2018, which she claimed at the time was “disturbing.”
“These families should not be detained and that’s the bottom line, and so we’re now contemplating thousands and thousands of migrant families being detained, doing irreparable harm to little children,” Hirono said. “When I was in Dilley, we can’t forget seeing in one of the areas a little boy just silently crying. Heaven knows what’s going through his mind but, not good.”
“Clearly, [the detained children] are harmed irreparably,” she continued. “And our country should not be imposing this kind of cruelty on children.”
During the Obama administration, the federal courts ruled that the government is prohibited from detaining children for longer than 20 days. Since the 20-day window is generally not long enough to process the detained immigrants, children and their accompanying adults are consequently separated as not to violate what is referred to as the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.
Democratic lawmakers and members of the left-wing media have been harshly criticizing the Trump administration for continuing the family separation policy that started under former President Barack Obama.
However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed earlier in the day that it would be using a new loophole around the Flores agreement to address the worsening immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.
DHS introduced a new policy where family units will be kept together in “family residential centers” during immigration court proceedings. The residential centers will be structured in a “campus-like” environment with classrooms for minors and areas where adults can meet with their attorneys, according to DHS Sec. Kevin McAleenan.
“At the heart of this new rule are two core principles,” McAleenan said during a press conference to introduce the changes. “That families should stay together during immigration proceedings and that conditions for care of children must be appropriate.”
Hirono, however, rebuffed the plan as just a way to detain immigrant children indefinitely.
“We already know from so many child specialists that detaining children in these kinds of facilities does irreparable damage to them. There are alternatives to family detention that this administration could care less about,” Hirono said. “The only way they can get around the Flores consent agreement is by getting around it.”
“They want to detain families indefinitely, children indefinitely, held in situations that do them absolutely no good when there are alternatives,” she added.