June 19 (UPI) — Several states have announced they will not send National Guard troops and other assets to the U.S.-Mexican border over President Donald Trump’s policy to separate immigrant children from their parents.
Governors in Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Virginia each said their soldiers won’t help immigration officials with the administration’s renewed focus on prosecuting everyone who crosses the border illegally, including some seeking asylum.
In some cases, states are withdrawing National Guard assets they’ve already sent to the border. In April, Trump called for up to 4,000 troops to go to the southern border.
“Until this policy of separating children from their families has been rescinded, Maryland will not deploy any National Guard resources to the border,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said Tuesday. “Earlier this morning, I ordered our four crew members & helicopter to immediately return from where they were stationed in New Mexico.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam recalled four National Guard soldiers and a helicopter from the border and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker canceled plans to send a UH-72 Lakota helicopter and two pilots. The latter called the practice of separating children from their parents “inhumane.”
Other states had no plans to send troops to the border, so their statements were largely symbolic, including Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island.
“In the face of this ongoing human tragedy, let me be very clear: New York will not be party to this inhumane treatment of immigrant families. We will not deploy National Guard to the border, and we will not be complicit in a political agenda that governs by fear and division,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.
He also called for the acting inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security to investigate possibly illegal tactics used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New York and to notify the state of what steps are being taken along the border about “the assault on immigrant families.”
In Colorado, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an order Monday barring any state funds from being used in practices separating children from their families based solely on immigration status. The executive order also says no state agency may deprive a person of services or benefits based on their immigration status.
In the spring, administration officials announced a crackdown on illegal immigration under a new “zero-tolerance” policy.
“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in early May.
During another speech in San Diego, Calif., Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan said there were no new policies in place to separate children from families while crossing the border. The option of separating children from their parents and placing them in foster care dates back to the George W. Bush administration.
ICE separates adults from children if they are unable to determine whether the adult is a parent and whenever a parent is being prosecuted for a crime. As the Trump administration pushes to reach 100 percent prosecution of illegal crossings and increase prosecution of asylum seekers, more families are being separated.
Previous administrations have found other options to keep families together while they awaited court proceedings. The Obama administration usually separated children from their guardians only if there were questions about the child’s safety.
The Department of Homeland Security said last week that nearly 2,000 children had been separated from their parents between April 19 and May 31.
On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said they were denied entry to a newly reopened shelter for immigrant children. The Homestead, Fla., shelter was in use during the Obama administration but closed last year due to a drop in illegal immigration.
Wasserman Schultz said the government reopened the facility earlier this year without public notice and she learned about it Monday.
“The company running this facility told us we would be welcomed to tour the facility,” Nelson said in a video posted on Twitter. “HHS then denied us entry and said that they need ‘two weeks notice’ to allow us inside. That’s ridiculous and it’s clear this administration is hiding something.”