Trump using kids as 'bargaining chips': Sen. Cortez Masto on Powerhouse Politics

PHOTO: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is turned away from one child detention center on the Mexican border in Texas, June 26, 2018, but gets access to two others.PlayOffice of Senator Cortez Masto
WATCH Global outcry from US allies grows against Trump border policy

The White House and Congress are pointing fingers, each calling on the other to fix the immigration crisis involving families at the southern border. One Democrat, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — who visited detention sites on Monday — blames the Trump administration for creating this crisis and exploiting detained children as “bargaining chips.”

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PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting of the National Space Council in the White House, June 18, 2018, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks near the border with Tijuana, Mexico, May 7, 2018, in San Diego.AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting of the National Space Council in the White House, June 18, 2018, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks near the border with Tijuana, Mexico, May 7, 2018, in San Diego.

“What we see is an administration who has manufactured a crisis using these kids as political bargaining chips for their own political...gain,” the lawmaker told Powerhouse Politics podcast hosts, Rick Klein and Ali Rogin. “That to me is what is so egregious...and just immoral.”

After she spoke to Powerhouse Politics last week, Senator Cortez Masto flew to Brownsville, Texas to try and see the detained children with her own eyes. Even though she had reached out to HHS for access, the Senator was turned away from the Casa Presidente facility where children under 12 are housed.

Cortez Masto complained to Powerhouse Politics hosts that the White House was stonewalling lawmakers' access.

PHOTO: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is turned away from one child detention center on the Mexican border in Texas, June 26, 2018, but gets access to two others.Office of Senator Cortez Masto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is turned away from one child detention center on the Mexican border in Texas, June 26, 2018, but gets access to two others.

"We can't get answers," she stated. “We have been asking this question from the very beginning and [are] not getting any of those answers from this administration.”

She demands to know: “Where's the transparency? Where's the accountability?”

She experienced that firsthand as she spent a long, hot day under the Texas sun visiting three facilities. After she was turned down at the first center, she and her staff drove to Port Isabel Detention Center and met with six mothers who had been separated from their children for weeks. All the mothers who are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras told the Senator they fear for their lives, and have been threatened by gangs, or are being extorted for money. All of them complained they didn't know where their children were. Half of them had not spoken to their children while in detention. Senator Cortez Masto also heard similar, heart-breaking stories from fathers. Her last stop was a Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, Texas. As she sat on her plane back to the Capitol, she wrote on Facebook, "I am overwhelmed by what I saw and the stories I heard today. The most heartbreaking: parents still having no idea where their children are - or when they will see them again."

Cortez Masto is the first Latina and female from Nevada ever elected to the U.S. Senate. She has been particularly vocal about the White House’s zero tolerance immigration policy, which she believes is part of President Trump’s greater “anti-immigrant agenda.”

PHOTO: A two-year-old Honduran girl cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.John Moore/Getty Images
A two-year-old Honduran girl cries as her mother is searched and detained near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.

“It's clear. From the time that he started campaigning and talking about people coming across the border that were criminals...and drug dealers and rapists, to the Muslim ban...he has an anti-immigrant policy and we see that playing out.”

The Nevada Democrat claims that the “easiest” and “quickest” way to stop family separation at the United States-Mexico border is not legislation by Congress but instead, action on President Trump’s part.

“[Legislation is] not needed if we're going to make the change. Simply the president, all he has to do is change a policy back,” she explained. “This administration can correct all of this and can stop it — by just picking up a pen and making that change.”

“Stop separating these parents from their children. Stop traumatizing kids that are coming across this border,” the senator stated.

PHOTO: Catherine Cortez Masto, Democratic candidate for Senate from Nevada, shakes hands with the crowd after a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nov. 6, 2016.Bill Clark/Getty Images
Catherine Cortez Masto, Democratic candidate for Senate from Nevada, shakes hands with the crowd after a campaign rally in Las Vegas, Nov. 6, 2016.

In the meantime, Cortez Masto’s message to President Trump is clear: “Nobody should use children as bargaining chips for political gain. It should never be done. Never.”

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