There is a crisis at the southern border, that's true. This past month, 140,000 people showed up seeking asylum – 84,000 families, 11,000 children. But everything, every single thing that the Trump administration is doing, led by President Trump himself, is making a very dire situation worse.
First, start with the definition that our president gives what's going on. It's the arrival of rapists, of criminals, of gang members, when every single one of us who has been on that heartbreaking trip to the southern border knows it's children, it's women, it's families who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing gang members, who are fleeing destitution in grinding poverty. Those are the people arriving at the border and their crime, made criminal by the administration, is to seek help, to knock on America's door and ask for help. We may not be able to do all that we would like, but is it a crime for a person to ask for assistance?
Second, by defining the crisis as an invasion of criminals – the Trump definition – the Trump policy is to treat these people worse than criminals. First, starting with the family separation policy where children literally were yanked out of the arms of their parents. Many of those children still don't know where their father or their mother is. That is being done in your name and mine with the full authority of the American government in the widespread opposition of the American people.
And then, when these people are in our custody, the imposition of cruel and brutal conditions on children and innocent people, whose crime is to seek some assistance. We had a Trump attorney in federal court arguing that when it came to fulfilling the duty that we had holding in custody, children, that it was OK to deny them toothbrushes, soap, access to showers, sanitary conditions, sleeping on cement floors in frigid conditions. This is shocking, it's unnecessary and it's inhumane.
In short, it's a policy of calculated cruelty, family separation and infliction of wholesale suffering; this must end. We must immediately return all children to their parents – provide humane, sanitary and safe conditions for those seeking asylum, and we must work with El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to improve conditions in those countries to address humanitarian – not withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars in aid as the president decrees.
Mr. President, the response to this crisis must not be cruelty. Enforce our laws – yes. Work with Central American governments – yes, but treat all who seek America's help with respect and dignity, I yield back.