Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and his wife Connie Schultz meet with kids at a facility housing children near the Mexican border last weekend.
Photo: Washington Bureau
Photo: Washington Bureau

Ohio Sens. Brown, Portman visit camps at U.S.-Mexico border

Both say it’s a humanitarian crisis, but have different opinions on who to blame.

RELATED: Mexico ‘does not agree’ with new US asylum rule

In a conference call with reporters Monday, Brown, a Democrat said he went to the border to “bear witness” on the humanitarian crisis.

“I saw up close the inhumanity and the coldness of President Trump’s family separation policy,” he said, saying the families he met were “coming to the country to flee violence, flee persecution.”

“Tearing them apart, locking them in cages — that is not going to fix our broken immigration policy,” he said. “It goes against the values that make this country great.”

Portman, meanwhile, said U.S. law has perpetuated the crisis by releasing those who apply for asylum into the community. Many of those he saw who were detained, he said, will be released within days.

“I think people are surprised to learn most folks are simply released into our communities, and aren’t held,” he said, saying “our laws are actually working to encourage people to make the trip north and get into the country because we don’t have an effective asylum policy that enables us to have an expedited way to determine whether someone is in fear of persecution back home.”

He said while the children and families he saw in the Donna holding facility were being treated well, he was more concerned about the men he saw in the border facility. “That’s where, in my view, the conditions were not something that we want to have in our immigration system,” he said, but said the Democrats have contributed to the problem by underfunding Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman meets with children at a holding facility near the Mexican border last weekend.
Photo: Washington Bureau

During his trip, he, a group of Republican senators led by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Vice President Mike Pence, had access to detention facilities where they met with children and crowded facilities where adult men were packed behind chain-linked fences.

By contrast, Brown’s access was largely limited, with government employees effectively barring him from touring some government facilities because he visited on a Sunday, when fewer employees are present.

He said he “didn’t see places where children were housed in cages,” but that he does not doubt footage and accounts taken by his fellow Democratic lawmakers who have also toured immigration facilities.

He said he saw some adults housed in small cells “that didn’t appear to be inhumane,” but were “crowded, to be sure.” He was not allowed to talk to those adults.

Brown, who has worked closely with Portman on trade and pension issues, said he looks forward to talking with Portman about their respective visits.

He said there are “a number of Republicans” that want to find bipartisan solutions but said McConnell “continues to do the bidding of President Trump.”

Trump, Brown said, “doesn’t want any kind of immigration reform or any serious reform that will work other than a border wall. He takes some pride in separating families at the border.”

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