WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said on Tuesday that she “felt ashamed” of the U.S. for the way the country is handling an ongoing influx of unaccompanied immigrant children illegally crossing the Mexican border into America.
Speaking at an ad-hoc Congressional Progress Caucus meeting on the humanitarian crisis at the U.S. border, Lee said that the testimonies from several unaccompanied illegal minors who made the journey into the country have left her feeling ashamed at the way Americans are dealing with the children.
“In listening to your testimony I felt ashamed and I ask my colleagues: are you talking about America? Is this America, where you have fled and were treated as you were. So I want to say to you, this country is a country that stands for liberty and justice for all.”
Lee continued: “As our Statue of Liberty says: give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”
Lee thanked the children who spoke at the hearing, saying she looks forward to U.S. lawmakers allowing them to reunite with their families in America.
“So your powerful words and presence and testimony today really have reminded us of what we stand for and who we are as a country…I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to find a way forward so that you and all of the children will feel safe and secure and reunited with your families. And just know that we as Americans appreciate your voices and communicating with us the tragic realities of what is taking place in your countries.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., agreed with Lee’s sentiments on Tuesday, arguing that proposed a Republican bill on immigration doesn’t contain adequate resources to aid unaccompanied minors flowing into the U.S. The fellow California Democrat argued that “deportation without representation” is out of the question, and that sending children back to their home countries would be like sending them “back into a burning building.”
Pelosi also looked to appeal to the country’s moral compass, even comparing the children to baby Jesus as an infant who also escaped violence in his own time.
“It’s not just about having a heart; it’s about having a soul,” Pelosi said after the children finished giving testimonies. “And the soul of our country is about respecting the dignity and worth of every person. The soul of our country is about giving every person access to rights who is in our country.”