Grassroots opponents of how President Donald Trump has dealt with immigrant families protested on Capitol Hill Thursday, seeking to bring the plight of migrant children straight to senators’ front doors.
A dozen or so children gathered in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building, wrapped in the same sort of Mylar blankets that photographs have shown children apprehended at the U.S. border wear while they sit in detention facilities, sometimes inside chain-link holding pens.
Adults gathered around the children and put a small cage with more Mylar in the center of the group. They sang “protect children” and “no detentions” interchangeably, and a few of the faith leaders led the group in prayer.
“We're trying to demonstrate what it's like in the children's cell. They're kept in like, five in one cell and it looks like it's a dog pound. It's horrible,” Lorenzo Morales, 12, told ABC after the protest.
“It's disappointing that the president and the Senate and this government is doing so little to help these children and I think separating a child from their family is the worst thing you can do to a child,” he added.
Meanwhile, senators have acknowledged that they have to come up with something that more permanently addresses the issue of migrant families, especially because the executive order President Trump signed Wednesday might come up against legal challenges. But so far senators are taking only small steps towards a legislative proposal.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the second-highest ranking Senate Republican, deferred to the lower chamber, which this afternoon voted down a conservative immigration bill. It also delayed a vote on a more moderate version until Friday.
“There's nothing for the Senate to take up unless the House passes a bill first,” Cornyn said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he believes the executive order is “doomed” because its requirement to house all families in detention centers together is unsustainable. He also expressed disappointment that the executive order did not do anything to reunite children who had already been taken from their parents while the initial policy was still in place.
“I read the executive order from start to finish and he didn't even mention 2,400 kids!” Durbin exclaimed, referring to the estimated number of children who are being held apart from their parents since the practice went into effect.
Several senators on both sides of the aisle have introduced bills that would narrowly deal with the issue of families being detained but no proposal yet has attracted crossover support from the opposite party of the author.
A bipartisan handful of senators met last night to discuss ways to build on two of the main proposals – one from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the other from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but the group only held a preliminary discussion, focused on agreeing that they needed to do something in addition to the president’s executive order.