Sen. Jeff Merkley: America Is Better Than This
Wednesday August 21: 7:30PM – 8:30PM
This event is free to attend! Limited copies of Senator Merkley's book America is Better Than This will be available for perchase at the event.
Doors open 30 minutes before showtime.
Jeff Merkley couldn’t believe his eyes. He never dreamed the United States could treat vulnerable young families with such calculated brutality. Few had witnessed what Merkley discovered just by showing up at the border and demanding to see what was going on behind closed doors.
Contrary to the official stories and soothing videos, he found mothers and children, newborn babies and infants, stranded for days on border bridges in blistering heat or locked up in ice-cold holding pens. There were nearly 1,500 boys jammed into a former Walmart, a child tent prison in the desert with almost 3,000 boys and girls, and children struggling to survive in gang-filled Mexican border towns after they were blocked from seeking asylum in the United States.
Worst of all, there were the children ripped out of their parents’ arms and sorted into cages in some profoundly warped attempt to discourage migration. This was how the Trump administration treated the child victims of unspeakable violence that had driven them from their homes: as pawns in a power play rather than as humans worthy of respect and dignity.
It was Merkley’s visits — captured live on viral video — that triggered worldwide outrage at the forced separation of children from their parents. Just by taking an interest — by caring about the people legally claiming asylum at America’s borders — Merkley helped expose the Trump administration’s war on migrant families. Along the way, he helped turn the tide against some of its worst excesses.
America is Better than This tells the inside story of how one senator, with no background as an immigration activist, became a leading advocate for reform of the brutal policies that have created a humanitarian crisis on the southern U.S. border. It represents the heartfelt and candid voice of a concerned American who believes his country stands for something far bigger and better.
Join us in the 2nd floor Art Department as Senator Jeff Merkley discuses his book about the fundamental disregard for human life within Trump's America and the length one man will go to fight back against racism and prejudice with IRAP Executive Director and co-founder, Becca Heller.
Jeff Merkley is a senator from Oregon, serving in the US Senate since 2009. Merkley has been noted for his opposition to the Trump administration's immigration policies. Most famously, in June 2018 Sen Merkley attempted to enter the Casa Padre processing facility in Brownsville, Texas, where children separated from their parents were being detained as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. Merkley was not permitted to enter the facility, and eventually the police were called and he was asked to leave the premises. Video of the event went viral on social media, drawing greater attention to the policy in traditional media and among the public.
Becca Heller is the Executive Director and co-founder of the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and a visiting clinical lecturer in law at Yale Law School. During her second year in law school in 2008, she co-founded IRAP to address the unmet legal needs of refugees seeking resettlement to a safe country. IRAP organizes thousands of law students and lawyers all over the world to advocate for the legal rights of refugees and other displaced persons. In the wake of U.S. President Trump's Executive Order banning millions of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S., Becca and IRAP marshaled thousands of lawyers to go to airports nationwide to fight the ban and protect people trying to enter the U.S. IRAP continues to be on the front lines of the global struggle for the rights of the forcibly displaced.
Becca has received numerous awards in recognition of her work with IRAP, including a MacArthur Fellowship. Becca received a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in 2005 and her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2010. She also spent a year living in Malawi as a Fulbright Scholar.