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VTDigger: Welch ‘Not Satisfied’ with Trump’s Border Response

July 9, 2018
In The News

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., back from a recent visit to a migrant detention center along the Texas-Mexico border, says he’s “not satisfied” with President Donald Trump’s response after reversing his administration’s policy of separating children from their families.

“The good news is there was such an uproar the president ultimately had to back down,” Welch said. “The bad news is a lot of these kids who aren’t with their parents can’t find them, and the whole debate we’re having about immigration reform is going to continue.”

Welch, speaking Thursday at the Governor’s Institute on Current Issues and Youth Activism at Brattleboro’s World Learning, told a group of 70 teenagers he witnessed the suffering endured by their Latin America counterparts when he traveled to federal border facilities on Father’s Day.

“There’s a lot of talk of kids in cages — that’s true,” he said. “Inside there were chain-link fences and chain-link ceilings. The entire day people just sat around on thin little mattresses. I don’t think we should treat asylum seekers as criminals.”

The Trump administration, which stopped separating migrant families as of June 20, announced Thursday the government still was caring for nearly 3,000 children, of whom approximately 100 were under age 5.

“The next question is reunification,” Welch said. “Congress should be doing aggressive oversight.”

But Vermont’s sole representative said he was “not optimistic” Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan would push for that, even though a federal judge has ordered all children returned to their parents by July 26.

Welch opened his half-hour talk by noting the resignation of embattled U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt — news that sparked students to cheer and applaud.

“You have made my day with your reaction,” he said. “It’s so astonishing to have somebody in charge of the environment who doesn’t believe in climate change.”

Welch then engaged in a quick series of questions and answers. What, one teenager asked, did he think of Trump’s Twitter habit?

“The tweets are about diverting attention,” he said, “and instead whipping up sentiment. Pick your issue — that’s what this president is doing.”

Trump’s meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un?

“I much prefer him having a handshake even if it’s photo op than talking about ‘Rocket Man’ and threatening nuclear war. But what will come out? We’ll see.”

A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling seen as a sharp blow to labor unions, which no longer can collect fees from workers who aren’t members?

“Wage stagnation is a huge problem. We need a worker bill of rights.”

A carbon tax to reduce greenhouse gases?

“I do think it makes sense, but the question I would have to answer is how much is it going to cost? It’s tough to sell right now, but there are more young people who understand.”

The state and nation’s high number of inmates?

“We have way over-incarcerated people — the amount we have in prison is second to Russia. There should be much more emphasis on skills training, education and better health.”

The fact Vermont is the only state yet to elect a woman to Congress?

“I fully support having women in all of our offices, but ultimately it’s not for me to say — it’s for Vermont voters.”

And finally, his advice to young people interested in politics?

“Run. You saw what happened in New York,” he said of recent congressional primary winner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “She’s 28 years old and beat a Democratic leader. Politics, when it’s done right, is promoting a better society. You just plunge in.”