Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar passionately warned her Republican colleagues Thursday that they need to push back forcefully against what she sees as the caustic anti-immigrant rhetoric used by President Donald Trump, who in a speech Wednesday in her home state of Minnesota said of illegal immigrants, "we are sending them the hell back."
During a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had an impromptu and spirited debate about possible legislative fixes to the family separation issue that is playing out on the border with Mexico, Klobuchar urged Republicans to "be on the record condemning these words."
"Because if you think those words -- 'we're sending them the hell back' -- are going to help advance the bipartisan nature of this problem and solving it, you're wrong," she continued.
Klobuchar, who is running for re-election this year, blasted comments by GOP senators who had argued that lawmakers should set politics aside as they work to find a solution for the thousands of children on the border who have been separated from their parents, a policy put in place by the Trump administration that the White House and Congress are now trying to fix.
"To hear this flowery language to get the politics out of this,'' Klobuchar said. "I've been to the border, I've seen the trafficking issue. But it was a problem that was clearly exacerbated and brought to its current state by this administration."
Several members of the Judiciary Committee, including Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California and Dick Durbin of Illinois, are negotiating a pair of bills to address the separation crisis and are hopeful they will be able to make progress on an issue that has stalled repeatedly in the past.
The group of four plans to meet Monday to continue their efforts, according to Feinstein.
Klobuchar's strong words speak to the emotional drain of the issue that, for Democrats, is made worse by Trump's unsparing remarks that are cheered by his supporters.
She spoke about Minnesota as a state built by immigrants like her grandparents, including a grandfather who came to the country illegally from Switzerland before World War II.
"So please, when you have somebody coming to my state, which was built by immigrants, don't be lecturing us about getting the politics out of this when you have a president, the head of your party saying we're sending them the hell back," she said.