“Our President Is Unstable”: Sen. Jeff Merkley Makes the Case That “It’s Getting Worse”

Senator Jeff Merkley’s blunt warning about Trump’s policies and mental stability

© Zach Roberts/ZUMA Wire

Senator Jeff Merkley has witnessed some atrocious scenes at migrant detention centers along the Texas-Mexico border. He described one where “hundreds” of children were ripped out of their parents’ arms and sorted into chain-link cages, standing in single-file lines from shortest to tallest. 

“The shortest one was in front and he was just knee-high to a grasshopper, maybe four years old,” Merkley told Mother Jones’ editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery in August at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. “I was stunned.”

Despite Donald Trump’s claims that he’s “the least racist person,” Merkley said the president’s anti-immigration rhetoric is rooted in racism. When Jeffery asked him if he thought President Trump was a racist, Merkley responded without hesitation, “Yes, I do.” 

Listen to Clara Jeffery interview Jeff Merkley on the latest episode of the Mother Jones Podcast below: 

“We have a president who campaigned on division,” said Merkley. “When he came into office he continued to pour fuel on the divisions, but he came to find the easiest target is immigrants. Immigrants not from Europe: immigrants from south of the border.”

Merkley made headlines last year when he live-streamed his attempt to look inside a former Wal-Mart that’s now home to 1,500 migrant children in Brownsville, Texas. The video went viral and ignited a national outrage about the treatment of people who were forced to live there. Soon after, he received permission to tour the facility and became the first member of Congress to tour that particular location.

Since then, Merkley has spearheaded legislative efforts to shut down detention centers for migrant children. His new book, America Is Better Than This: Trump’s War Against Migrant Families, tells the story of how he, a junior senator from Oregon with no experience on immigration issues in Congress, became a leading advocate for immigration reform against President Trump’s anti-immigration campaign. 

It’s clear that immigration will be a key issue in the 2020 presidential election. To beat President Trump, Merkley said, voters have a moral duty to speak up and fight back. 

“Lady Liberty’s torch has been snuffed out by this administration and we need to recognize that this is a pretty dark, heavy time for our country but we have an opportunity to change that; an opportunity in our daily conversations, an opportunity with our resources,” said Merkley, who will not be running for president, but, instead, will pursue re-election in the Senate. “But let’s also use our weight and time and energy to put America back on track in November 2020.”

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.