SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - As the debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policy continues to heat up, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz joined other local leaders and representatives in Sunrise to discuss the polarizing issue.
Monday morning’s roundtable discussion, hosted by Wasserman Schultz at her offices, dealt with the current policy’s effect on how the United States deals with immigrants, particularly the forced separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents.
“It is vile, it is immoral, it is dangerous,” said Wasserman Schultz. “They are jeopardizing children’s lives.”
The Democratic lawmaker met with immigration attorneys and representatives from organizations that included Americans for Immigrant Justice, the Hispanic Unity of Florida, Mujeres Latinas, the United Way of Broward County and United We Dream.
The meeting gave participants an opportunity to brainstorm and discuss the government-run detention facilities where the children of detained immigrants are being held.
Speaking with reporters Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump defended his zero-tolerance immigration policy.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be,” he said.
Meanwhile, protesters continued to gather in Texas, where thousands of children have been separated from their parents as they tried to enter the country.
Politicians from both sides of the aisle criticized the practice.
“It’s inconsistent with our American values to separate these children from their parents,” said U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, during a TV interview.
Speaking at a demonstration, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., echoed her concern.
“The reality is that it’s very hard for the parents where their kids are,” he said.
Administrator officials said separating families is part of the legal process.
“We have to do our job. We will not apologize for doing our job,” said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “We have sworn to do this job.”
Camera crews that toured one of the facilities showed several boys sleeping in a cell, as well as several dozen girls in a larger space closed off with chain-link fence.
“The zero-tolerance policy is intended to deter people from breaking the law — adults,” said a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official during a news conference.
But opponents of the policy argue it’s children who are paying the price.
Wasserman Schultz said she believes the solution will come by way of a separate law and not just an immigration bill.
“It will be very evident that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in Congress can say whatever they want about caring, about changing this policy,” said Wasserman Schultz. “If they pass a separate bill, it’s clear they don’t care and that the impact and consequences and devastation that these kids will suffer will be on their hands, too.”
For such legislation to pass, Wasserman Schultz said, Democrats and Republicans need to come together.
“We can stop it like that,” she said as she snapped her fingers. “This week, when we go back into session, Congress can take up separate legislation.”
Wasserman Schultz added that she will head to Texas on Friday to see for herself how this immigration issue is unfolding.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., is currently in Brownsville, Texas for the same reason. She participated in a roundtable discussion with other lawmakers, Monday afternoon.
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