Photo: Getty

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, had the police called on him when he travelled to Texas over the weekend to try to visit an immigration detention center (rather, a repurposed Walmart building) for undocumented kids. Never an administration to let an abhorrent story go unanswered, Donald Trump’s White House on Monday released a statement slamming Merkley and blaming his politics for sexual assault.

The statement, via The Washington Post, read:

He voted against closing the ‘catch-and-release’ loopholes used by child smugglers, and his reckless open borders policies are responsible for the permanent separation of thousands of American families who have been forced to bury their loved ones.

No one is taking a public safety lecture from Sen. Merkley, whose own policies endanger children, empower human smugglers and drug cartels, and allow violent criminal aliens to flood into American communities

The statement also included a section “on background,” meaning that it was not supposed to be attributed to the White House, but was published by the Post after CNS News used it in a story. Perhaps all this obfuscation is because the administration was trying to tie Merkley to crimes of sexual assault:

The victims of Sen. Merkley’s reckless open borders policies include his own constituents: a 65 year-old Oregon woman who was sexually assaulted by an illegal alien that had been previously deported 20 times prior, and a young Oregon girl who was allegedly raped several times by a twice-deported illegal alien.

The tactic of highlighting a few bad actors who buck the trend to justify inhumane immigration policies has become standard for Trump (and is really just an extension of a criminalization narrative that has historically found a home in both parties), who continues to call MS-13 gang members “animals” every chance he gets. But this is the response Merkley gets for merely trying to see undocumented children being held inside detention centers. It feels exceedingly likely that we’ve only just started to see the depths the White House will sink to in order to defend their policies.