US mayors demand migrant children be reunited with families

New York mayor Bill de Blasio speaks to reporters at the Tornillo border port near El Paso, Texas, on June 21, 2018 during a protest by several American mayors against the separation of migrant families
Brendan Smialowski/AFP

Tornillo (United States) (AFP) – A bipartisan group of American mayors rallied outside a migrant children’s shelter in Texas Thursday to denounce a lack of transparency in the family separation crisis at the Mexican border — and demand that thousands of children be swiftly reunited with their parents.

New York’s Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti were among several dozen mayors from across the United States who gathered at the border port of Tornillo, a day after President Donald Trump bowed to a growing firestorm and moved to stop splitting migrant families. 

The fate of more 2,300 children already parted from their parents and guardians has been left hanging despite the executive order.

“The families are not reunified, we don’t know when they’ll be, we’re gonna fight for that,” said De Blasio — who a day earlier declared himself “shocked to learn” that a single center in Harlem had received 239 separated children without the knowledge of city authorities.

“Think how broken that is that our government didn’t even tell us that was happening,” De Blasio told the gathering in Tornillo.

Steve Benjamin, the Democratic mayor of Columbia, South Carolina, doubled down.

“The nation’s mayors are here to call attention to a shameful condition and… to call on the administration to reunite as quickly as possible the thousands of children who have been separated from their parents.” 

The mayors joined in accusing federal authorities of providing little to no information about children sent to their cities — or how and when they will be reunited with their families. 

Garcetti said more than 100 children were sent to Los Angeles. 

“We don’t know any information about them. We have to find out from activists instead of the government,” said the Democratic mayor. 

De Blasio gave the example of a nine-year-old boy from Honduras named Edie, taken from his mother in Texas and put on a bus to travel 2,000 miles to New York City.

“These kids have been traumatized,” he said. “They don’t know when they’re going to see their parents again.”

Trump’s executive order, while it did not address the fate of children already separated from their families, raised the prospect that families could be detained indefinitely until their cases are adjudicated — a move that could lead to new legal battles for the administration.

Dee Margo, the Republican mayor of El Paso, Texas called for urgent action on broader immigration reform by Congress — where the latest attempt at legislation stalled on Thursday amid deep divisions.

“It’s not just the fact that they’re separating children in an inhumane manner, it’s the fact that we need to reconcile and resolve our immigration process,” De Margo said. 

“They need to get their act together.”

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