Sen. Lindsey Graham to Fox: I don't care if migrants remain in detention facilities "for 400 days"

Graham's remarks of "a system about to break" directly contradict Trump's portrayal of the detention centers

By Matthew Rozsa
Published July 15, 2019 10:21AM (EDT)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Getty/Anna Moneymaker)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Getty/Anna Moneymaker)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo on Sunday that he does not care if migrants being held in detention facilities at the southern border are kept there for "400 days."

"I saw a system completely overwhelmed — for no good reason," Graham told Bartiromo. "Our laws are set up such that if you can bring a small child to America coming from Central America, we can only hold a child for 20 days. Then we let the entire family go, because we don't want to separate families. We can't process a case in 20 days.”

”What did I see? 52,000 people have been released into the interior of the United States from this one border patrol area alone. What did I see? A system about to break," Graham continued. "I saw brave men and women, who are doing an incredible job under difficult circumstances, and I'm going to introduce a resolution next week praising them — the men and women of the border patrol and their allies."

"I saw 900 illegal immigrants that were captured for coming into our country illegally housed in detention facilities that were meant for 385, so they had to put a tent in the back. What I saw is a bunch of people, who have been here before, broke the law before, and we're not going to let them go. I don't care if they have to stay in these facilities for 400 days," the senator added. "We're not going to let those men go that I saw — it would be dangerous. And I also saw that 60 different nations are sending people here illegally. We caught people from Iran, Syria — every place in the world. They're coming through our border."

Graham's remarks of "a system about to break" directly contradict President Donald Trump's earlier portrayal of the detention centers on Sunday. In a pair of tweetshe argued that "Friday’s tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews! Failing @nytimes story was FAKE! The adult single men areas were clean but crowded - also loaded up with a big percentage of criminals. Sorry, can’t let them into our Country. If too crowded, tell them not to come to USA, and tell the Dems to fix the Loopholes - Problem Solved!"

The South Carolina senator's comments continue his evolution from one of the few prominent Republicans willing to criticize the president to one of his most-outspoken supporters. Last year, Graham reportedly stood up to the president after he referred to the nations of Africa as "sh*thole" countries, and as far back as 2016 he denounced the future president as a "race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot." Since that time, Graham has become one of the president's staunchest defenders, and his latest comments are a seeming attempt to discredit accusations by Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., about the abysmal conditions in the detention facilities.

"Just left the 1st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically &sexually threatening towards me," Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeted earlier this month. "Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress."

In a follow up tweet, she added, "Now I’ve seen the inside of these facilities. It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress. I brought it up to their superiors. They said 'officers are under stress & act out sometimes.' No accountability."

You can watch the full segment below: 

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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