WASHINGTON (AP) — Calling on the Trump administration to end its “insensitive policy,” the Rev. Al Sharpton and a coalition of social justice leaders announced Tuesday that they plan to visit immigrant children separated from their families at the U.S. border with Mexico.
In a Capitol Hill news conference, Sharpton accused U.S. officials of applying a different standard to the children “because these are children of color.”
“There is a different policy here, and that is playing hardball with the future of these young people,” Sharpton said.
He said if Congress does not act soon, clergy and humanitarian groups would begin “waves of visits” to check on children at the border in Texas as early as Thursday, “to show the world that America has not lost its conscience or soul.”
When asked for details on the border visits, Sharpton’s spokeswoman, Rachel Noerdlinger, said the logistics were still being worked out.
Sharpton spoke with reporters amid national outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to illegal border crossings that has resulted in immigrant children being separated from their parents. Over the past several days, media have reported the sounds and images of weeping children being held at border facilities, some crying out for their parents.
“I cannot get the sounds of those children crying out of my head, because they were torn away from their mothers and their fathers,” said Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
President Donald Trump defended his policy during a speech Tuesday at the National Federation of Independent Business’ 75th anniversary celebration. While the separation of families needs to stop, Trump said, “we can’t let people pour in.”
“Politically correct or not, we have a country that needs security, that needs safety,” Trump said.
In addition to Gupta, Sharpton was joined by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla. ; UnidosUs president Janet Murguia; National Coalition of Black Civic Participation president Melanie Campbell; Anti-Defamation League director Jonathan Greenblatt; Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law president Kristen Clarke; National Urban League president Marc Morial; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. president Sherrilyn Ifill; and League of United Latin American Citizens’ chief operating officer Sindy Benavides.
Trump is under mounting pressure to reverse an immigration enforcement policy that has led to the separation of more than 2,300 migrant children from their families in recent weeks.
Murguia said the activists intend to continue pressing the president, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security to change the policy.