PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is "exploring the possibility" of running for President in 2020, weighed in on immigration and this week's Supreme Court rulings, including the Trump travel ban.
The 61-year-old senator from Oregon was at the forefront in bringing the separation of children from their parents to the attention of both the US and the world.
Tuesday night, a federal judge in California ruled the federal government has 30 days to re-unite children with their parents.
"I'm encouraging the White House not appeal the decision," Merkley told KOIN 6 News. "This ruling conveys a sense of urgency. ... I hope the administration will take it to heart."
He also said the ACLU winning access for lawyers to talk with immigrant detainees at the Sheridan federal facility may help what's going on.
"There have a been a whole series of changes that the bureau of prisons agreed to, that they're implementing now, so I'm hoping to see a much better situation going forward," Merkley told KOIN 6 News.
He said his visit to the border a few weeks ago really opened his eyes.
"When I first went down, I just didn't really believe they decided to hurt children just to send a message. It was an enormous shock," he said. "It completely conveyed to me that, wow, this is real."
He added that when he went outside the converted Walmart in Brownsville and addressed the media, "it became real to the entire country."
Merkley is aware of the Occupy ICE Portland protest going on outside the ICE facility in Southwest Portland. Asked if he thinks the demonstrators should bring their protest to a close, Merkley demurred.
"(Protesting) is an important part of America, that people get to protest when we get off track. We need to honor the ability of people to make their views heard."
But he said it is "fairly unlikely" Congress will pass an immigration bill anytime soon. "We really have to quit politicizing this issue of immigration. ... We've reached agreement before, we can do it again. But not when the President is pursuing the demonization, the dehumanization of immigrants."
The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling upholding the Trump travel ban is directly related to "the theft of a Supreme Court seat," Merkley said. He's referring to the Republican-led Senate blocking a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, who was nominated by President Obama 11 months before the end of his term.
When President Trump took office, he then nominated Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed to replace the late Antonin Scalia -- and arguably was the 5th and deciding vote in this case.
The "Supreme Court is turning the constitution on its head on issue after issue after issue," Merkley said.
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