Schumer Pushes Bill to Protect Migrants After Facing Heat from Local Activists

Schumer Pushes Bill to Protect Migrants After Facing Heat from Local Activists
Protesters at Prospect Park (Sam Raskin/Bklyner)

PARK SLOPE—Senator Chuck Schumer on Thursday proposed a measure aimed at protecting migrants, after facing criticism from many on the left for his response to overcrowding and inhumane conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The legislation, named the “Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act,” would end family separations except when they are “authorized by a state court or child welfare agency, or when Customs and Border Protection agent determines that the child is [a] trafficking victim.” It would also require Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials to conduct a medical assessment of children in their custody and provide them with meals, medical care, as well as “appropriate temperature control and ventilation.”

In addition, the the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would mandate that federal agencies provide a weekly report to Congress on how many children are in custody, along with other information on the minors.

Sponsored by the New York senator and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the bill was proposed the week after Schumer faced backlash from national and local progressives because of his support for a border funding bill. Last week, a demonstration formed outside the senator’s home in Park Slope, where hundreds expressed their frustration.

“Senator Schumer is trying to split directly down the center of the Democratic Party and he’s basically putting politics over children. He’s afraid to take a stand for immigrants, because he’s afraid of how it’s going to come off to white moderates,” said one person at the protest.

On Thursday, Schumer, the Senate minority leader, joined other Senate Democrats to put forward legislation to protect migrants detained by CBP and other federal agencies.

“The bill would end family separations at the border,” the senator said Thursday at a press conference about the measure, adding the legislation would “bolster health and safety protections for children and families so they don’t live in inhumane, unhealthy, and unsanitary conditions.”

He added that the bill, which has almost 40 sponsors, would “provide additional guardrails and minimum standards to ensure that government funds are not used to traumatize or harm asylum seekers.”

“Donald Trump and some of his right-wing allies in the media and elsewhere would like Americans to believe these are all hardened criminals. They are not,” Schumer added.  “They are doing what any people would, any persons would do faced with what they’re faced with. They’re simply seeking a decent life for themselves and for their children. And they’re willing to trek long distances, pay coyotes [smugglers], risk their lives because they can’t stay in their countries.”

In response, Lisa Raymond-Tolan, co-president of Indivisible Nation BK—the group that organized last week’s protest near Schumer’s home—called the legislation “a good first step to protect immigrant children at our border.”

“However, given inevitable Republican obstruction in the Senate and the unparalleled cruelty of the Trump administration,” she said in an email, “he must do more—defund ICE, visit the border personally, and hold immigration town halls so he can hear directly from affected constituents.”