Merkley spent the past few days in Iowa attending public events and campaigning for local Democrats. Merkley drew national attention earlier this year when he tried to visit a detention facility at the southern border where children were being separated from parents who were filing for asylum in the U.S.
“This is wrong,” Merkley said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “It’s dark. It’s evil. It’s nuts.”
Merkley, though, is not among the Democrats who’ve called for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. He said that’s “counterproductive” to efforts to get the Trump Administration to revert to previous policies toward asylum seekers.
“To deliberately inflict harm on children I think touches the hearts of everyone and I think a tremendous number of our Republican colleagues are upset about it as well,” Merkley said.
Almost every American has someone in their family history who fled disease, hunger, religious persecution or civil war, according to Merkley.
“To instead arrive and be treated to handcuffs, imprisonment and having your children torn away, deliberately inflicting harm as a message of deterrence is just profoundly wrong,” Merkley said.
Merkley spoke at a fundraiser this morning for Deidre DeJear, the Democratic candidate for Iowa Secretary of State. This is his second extended trip to Iowa and it’s no secret Merkley is mulling a 2020 presidential campaign.
“I can tell you in the history of my home state of Oregon, we’re not aware of anyone ever having explored the possibility of the presidency,” Merkley said. “…Common sense western values of independence and self-reliance, but the community coming together to help each other out is maybe the right balance that we need to talk about more in America.”
Merkley served five terms in the Oregon legislature and was speaker of the Oregon House when he defeated an incumbent Republican U.S. Senator in 2008. He won reelection in 2014. In 2016, Merkley was the only member of the U.S. Senate who endorsed Bernie Sanders.