On Sunday, I joined three other members of the Oregon Congressional delegation to visit two Portland shelters for unaccompanied young migrants. The shelters, run by Morrison Child & Family Services, house 13 to 17-year-olds and are – thankfully – worlds away from the horrors we’ve seen at our nation’s doorstep.
The shelter’s goal is to place the children with a family as soon as possible; in fact, the average stay in the short-term shelter is 37 days. In the meantime, the youth are treated with dignity and compassion.
For the kids who’d spent time in Trump’s camps at the border, the difference once they arrive at Morrison is immediate and profound. Children who were denied toothbrushes, showers, and drinkable water at the border, are provided with nutritious food and access to quality health care at Morrison.
I spoke with a sixteen-year-old boy from Guatemala who was forced to flee his home when a drug cartel showed up and told him that he had to join their operation, otherwise they’d kill his entire family. He left his small village and made a difficult and dangerous journey to the United States seeking safety and refuge. He shared that when he reached our border, he regretted coming to America because border agents “treated him like dirt” and told him that he was “an enemy.” Now, thanks to the supportive rehabilitation services of Morrison, he dreams of a future for himself here – he wants to become a mechanic, build a career, and help his family.
These individuals aren’t criminals, David. They’re children who have seen their homes torn apart by violence. They’ve lost family members. And they’ve come to the United States of America – the land of opportunity – for safety and refuge.
Instead, they’ve been met by the policies of the Trump administration: separating children from their parents, herding families into overcrowded cages and cells, denying people the most basic necessities, and subjecting them to utterly dehumanizing treatment in direct violation of our laws.
This is a dark and shameful chapter in American history and we have to do everything we can to have a positive difference. I’ll continue to raise my voice, rally, and fight in Congress for meaningful immigration reform and action to protect immigrant youth, DREAMERS, and vulnerable migrants. We must address the systematic issues in Latin America, much like we did in Eastern Europe after World War II!
It’s our patriotic and moral duty to take care of our neighbors and the most vulnerable in our communities – you can guarantee that I won’t stop fighting until our movement achieves meaningful reform. I feel a personal duty to do more to have an immediate impact on detained children who are suffering this very moment under our government’s watch.
Proud to fight by your side,