Sen. Mazie Hirono chokes up as she discusses conditions for children at the U.S.-Mexican border
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Sen. Mazie Hirono chokes up as she discusses conditions for children at the U.S.-Mexican border

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, left, holds back tears as she recalls images of drowned migrants, saying that if the images of drowned migrants don’t move you, “something is dead or dying in your heart,” as she speaks during a news conference on new legislation regarding detention of immigrants, including children, on the southern border on Capitol Hill in Washington.

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono grew emotional Thursday during a press conference as she discussed reports of deteriorating conditions at border detention facilities and a recent photo of a father and his one-year-old daughter who drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande to get into the United States.

“If you didn’t feel shame, pain. If you weren’t appalled by these pictures then something is dead or dying in your hearts and in the heart of America,” said Hirono as she choked up.

The press conference was called to urge support for the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. The legislation championed by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Jeff Merkley of Oregon calls for an end to family separations with certain exceptions, would set minimum health and safety standards for children and families in Border Patrol Stations and would require that children have legal representation, among other protections.

“How can we call ourselves a nation that calls out to people like me to come to our country to seek a better life,” Hirono said. “How can we call ourselves a beacon of hope and freedom and countenance these kinds of conditions in our facilities.”

Hirono, who was born in Japan, immigrated to America with her mother and brother at the age of seven.

“I just want to say to all of you and the American people: We better look to our hearts because if we do not then we are doing so much damage to our country that it will be hard for us to recover,” Hirono said. “It will be hard for us to be that beacon, that light, that shining light that calls to people to come to our country for a better life.”

Democratic outrage over conditions at the border has escalated in recent weeks following reports of worsening conditions at detention facilities for migrants, including severe overcrowding and poor sanitation.

President Donald Trump has defended conditions at the facilities and said Democrats were exaggerating the situation.

“Many of these illegals aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions,” Trump tweeted last week. “No matter how good things actually look, even if perfect, the Democrat visitors will act shocked & aghast at how terrible things are.”

Protests are planned nationwide tomorrow over border policies. In Honolulu, advocacy organizations are hosting the Lights for Liberty Oahu vigil at the state Capitol from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The event is being organized by state Rep. Tina Wildberger (D, South Maui) and almost a dozen local organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, Hawaii Children’s Action Network and Catholic Charities Hawaii.

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