Our senators need to speak out against the separation of immigrant families

In doing so, Corker and Alexander would better represent Tennessee’s values

Editor’s Note: Both Sen. Bob Corker and Sen. Lamar Alexander have joined many of their fellow Congress people in calling for an end to the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border. 

Updated June 18, 2018 at 11:35 pm

Right now, in this country, children are being torn from their parents. In early May, in a bid to deter illegal immigration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would prosecute undocumented people who try to enter the U.S. unlawfully. Along with this, he announced that if parents attempted to bring children into the country with them, they would be separated during the prosecution. Immigration enforcement heeded his orders and has since implemented the policy. Whether the story is presented statistically, emotionally or legally, tearing families apart to scare away immigrants is appalling and reprehensible.

As shocking as the Trump administration’s actions have been, the silence from our senators, Republicans Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, has been deafening. If they spoke up, their calls would ring out among a chorus of leaders who have decried this draconian policy and have decided to take action. Nearly fifty Democratic senators have supported Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) Keep Families Together Act, which simply prevents border security agents from separating children from their guardians. Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder has said that he was heartbroken by the separations. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) has openly opposed the policy. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), has stated that he is uncomfortable with the administration’s policy. Partisans of all stripes are calling it as they see it.

Along with a compromise of morality, this silence is also a deviation from the democratic value of representation. Tennesseans elected Alexander and Corker because they believed that they would espouse their values, and Tennesseans have reasonable, moderate stances on immigration. An MTSU poll of Tennesseans found that 75 percent of respondents wanted undocumented children to be allowed to stay in the U.S. and apply for citizenship. A Vanderbilt poll of Tennesseans found that 72 percent of respondents supported the more liberal policy of making the children of undocumented immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition. Multiple polls of the Tennessee senate race show that probable Democratic nominee Phil Bredesen is leading his likely Republican opponent Marsha Blackburn, who is a vocal supporter of hardline immigration initiatives.

Tennesseans want the Dreamers to have a home in the United States and don’t respond well to no-amnesty, ultra-conservative rhetoric about immigrants. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Tennesseans support the Trump administration’s actions.

Corker and Alexander know that Tennesseans want leaders who aren’t afraid to work with their Democratic colleagues. Another Vanderbilt poll indicated that 76 percent of Tennesseans want their representatives to work across the aisle more. This kind of information colors how representatives behave, and Corker and Alexander act as one might expect. Alexander and Corker are less conservative than many of their Republican colleagues. Alexander worked with Patty Murray (D-WA) on high-profile legislation to stabilize health insurance prices. Corker has joined with Democrats in criticizing Trump’s leadership qualities.

If these two men truly hold the democratic values of the country they work for, they will break their silence. They will back Sen. Feinstein’s bill. They will call out the cruelty of ripping mothers from sons, fathers from daughters. They will work to solve this problem. And if they don’t, it’s our job to let them know they have to.

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