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Democrat U.S. House Candidate Clarke Tucker Urges End To Using Immigrant Kids As 'Bargaining Chips'

Second Congressional District candidate Clarke Tucker (D).

U.S. House hopeful Clarke Tucker, D-Ark, is opposing the possible use of Arkansas facilities to house migrant children and families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border and rejecting his opponent's claims he's in lock-step with Democratic national figures. While President Donald Trump has ordered a halt to his zero-tolerance policy of separating children from their families at the southern border, federal officials are still planning to scout potential detainment sites in Arkansas on Thursday, including the Little Rock Air Force Base. And Republican House bills still tie legislative fixes to broader issues like border wall funding. Tucker says children shouldn't be used as "bargaining chips."

Tucker's campaign released a statement calling on the United States to be a "standard-bearer of democracy and freedom."

"As a parent, I cannot fathom needlessly separating a child from their mother or father, and I cannot support using the Little Rock Air Force Base to implement this shameful policy. The fact that we would even need to discuss additional facilities to take care of the thousands of children being taken from their families is incomprehensible to me. Though Congressman Hill and I have genuine differences on a number of policy issues, separating children from their parents should not be one of them. We should not be needlessly ripping children from their parents — not in our state, not in our country."

U.S. Health and Human Services officials did not respond to a request for clarification from KUAR, on whether the site could still be used to house children already separated from parents or to intern families together in the future. 

The Democratic candidate for the Second Congressional District says he opposes Trump administration policies leading to the need for such facilities, calling them "reprehensible." Earlier this week, Tucker’s Republican opponent French Hill contended the President didn’t have the authority to stop the policy through an executive order, and that it required Congressional action. Hill wanted to tie legislative action on child separation to bills funding border security. Tucker says we’re past the days of using children as bargaining chips. 

Interview Highlights

On the campaign and healthcare.

"I think it's going to be one of the most critical issus in the campaign," said Tucker. "I also think it's one of the easiest contrasts on our records. I walked across the aisle in the Arkansas Legislature for Medicaid expansion to bring healthcare to 300,000 people in Arkansas. Many for the first time in their lives. Congressman Hill voted for a bill last year that would have completely dismantled that innovative,  bi-partisan program, blown a hole in our state budget and...removed protections for people with pre-existing conditions."

On whether he's aligned with Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"If you're an incumbent Congressman and you start your campaign by attacking your opponent with ads that are misleading, what does that say about your record? Most importantly, it's a strong contrast between our campaign styles and governning styles. This is a political tactic that's being used by Republicans all over the country. It's essentially taking marching order from Republican leadership and it's frankly the same way his voting record has been in Congress for the last four years. That's not the way I've operated...It's understandable why he thinks I might fall in line with party leadership in Washington, because that's what he has done."

On the now-reversed zero tolerance policy separating children from parents.

"I'm horrified. I truly think this is one of the worst practices, if not the worst practice the United States government has deliberately engaged in during my lifetime...I think it's important we understand some people are actually seeking asylum and designated ports of entry and have rights under United States law, and have broken no law, and are still being separated from their children. I also think it's wrong to separate children from their parents unless there's some other crime or threat present. If all they're doing is crossing the border illegally then we should not be separating families from children and certainly not in the way we're doing it.

Regardless of where you stand on that issue, we've made almost no effort to re-unify them after the legal process plays out. We've seen reports where parents are deported without their children, where children are deported without their parents. It's just completely heartbreaking. It's morally reprehensible and it's damaging to our ability to be a leader of freedom in the world."

On Arkansas possibly hosting either children or whole families at federal sites.

"The heart of central Arkansas would come out if that were to play out. But it doesn't need to get to that point. We've already separated too many families and we need to stop these policies today."

On U.S. Sen. John Boozman's, R-Ark., placing blame on the immediate crisis on the President's new policy, and Rep. Hill's insistence it was a problem of the Democrats making.

"It does take courage to stand up to party leadership, as I've already done in this campaign. I applaued Sen. Boozman for taking that stance. Any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, who is not willing to take action regarding this crisis should have a new job in January."

On House bills that tie legislative solutions to zero tolerance to border wall funding and limiting immigration.

"The days of using children as bargaining chips for other legislatiave policies should have been over long ago...we need to take action."

Jacob Kauffman is a former news anchor and reporter for KUAR.
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