Yours Truly cannot say enough about the horrific images and sounds coming from the American southwestern border. Children being led away by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and taken to shelters, sometimes in other states, and who knows when their parents will see them again. Nor is there any protocol for the parents to contact their children. You have to be dead inside not to feel something. Now comes word that the federal government wants to build new migrant detention centers in border state cities. This news comes on day when the president signed an executive order end the child separation policy, after intense pressure from across the American spectrum. The executive order does not include any protocol for family reunification and comes after enough damage has been.
Today, Blogger Candidate Forum wants to take a look at how mayors are fighting back. Another thing Yours Truly cannot repeat enough times, regardless of your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, ability, a liberal, conservative, progressive, Republican, Democrat, Independent, sexual orientation, a parent or not, this is a matter of morality and humanity, not politics.
Houston, Texas is about to get a new migrant detentition center but not if Mayor Sylvester Turner has anything to say about it. Mayor Turner said "he would do everything in his power to avoid becoming an enabler of a new migrant detention center slotted to open in his city."
During his remarks yesterday, Mayor Turner declared his strong moral opposition to the federal policy of separating parents and children. Tanvi Misra reports in her CityLab article "Houston Mayor: I Won't Be an Enabler of Migrant Family Separation,"Turner suggested state and local permitting mechanism could stall or thwart the facility's operation. He urged the operators of the facility to reconsider their role."
Mayor Turner said in a press conference--which you can see on KTRK's Facebook page--
There comes a time when Americans, when Houstonians, when Texas have to say to those higher than ourselves: This is wrong,.... This is just wrong.
Here are the facts: "Between May 5 and June 9, the federal government has reportedly separated 2,342 migrant children (twitter.com/@adegranpre; June 19, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) from their parents, following the Department of Justice's 'zero tolerance' policy, through which the government seeks to detain and criminally prosecuted all adult migrants (vox.com; May 8, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) crossing the border without paper--including those who are seeking asylum (theatlantic.com; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018)."
Most of the separated children are (ware)housed at what are supposed to be temporary facilities, until e Department of Health and Human Services can find them a sponsor family. However in recent weeks, the full human impact of this practice has come to the forefront in vivid images. Stories of traumatized children clutching drawings of their families (nytimes.com; June 7, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018); audio recordings wailing for their parents (propublica.org; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018), pleading with officers, stories of children sleeping in giant cages (twitter.com/@DavidBegnaud; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) that some have compared to dog kennels (realclearpolitics.com; June 6, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018).
Tanvi Misra reports, "In May, the Houston area was home to eleven shelters detaining 955 unaccompanied minor children, according to the Texas Tribune [app.texastribune.org; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018]." The new facility, a former warehouse in east downtown, is slated to be used as a shelter for children separated from their families through the new "zero tolerance" policy."In what Turner described as irony, he said he intended to site a long-term homeless operation at the facility, which has previously been used to house people displaced by Hurricane Katrina and the homeless." Mayor Turner intended the site to be not only for housing, but for free meal delivery and mental health services. He said,
We thought it would be the best way of reducing the homeless population and bringing them together.
Mayor Sylvester Turner told CityLab that "the city was not informed that the facility was instead slated to house migrant kids, and only found out about the new potential tenants once reporters and activists got wind and sounded alarm." Southwest Key Program (swkey,org; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018), the company contracting with the federal government to house the children in South Texas, would also operate the one proposed for Houston. Yesterday, Mayor Turner sat down with HHS and representatives from Southwest Key to confirm the news and voice his disapproval. Mayor Turner said,
They did say they will provide compassionate care--and let me just say, I do question their intent,.... But I do not support this facility being used for this purpose.
Mayor Turner pled with the building's owner and contractor to rethink their plan. He added,
I do believe that as a result of the conversation we had today that they want to proceed,...
He highlighted the pending steps within Houston's domain before the building is ready for use: "the fire department's inspection, the health department's food and shelter permit, for example." He also noted that the facility is not yet licensed by the state of Texas--and implored the state not do so. He said,
I do not want to be an enabler in this process. I do not want the city to participate this process,.... I don't want our facilities and property owners to participate in this process.
When CityLab asked The Mayor if there was any realistic way he could prevent the facility from opening, he repeated that the fire department has not yet approved it, "adding that the chief is with him 24/7." Specifically, So I don't plan to get over there right now, alluding to the possibility that he could slow-walk the approval process. Regarding the shelter's health department permit approval, he said "the city wants to 'meticulous' in evaluating the facility, given that it would be used for children."
Mayor Turner told CityLab,
I don't want want anyone to criticize me for moving too quickly or in haste because other may have moved in haste on this policy so we're going to take the necessary time to make sure that we are prudent, that we are efficient, and we take every conceivable step that is in he best interest of the kids in this facility,....
Tomorrow, American mayor plan to gather at Tornillo, Texas (usmayors.org; June 18, 2018; date accessed June 20, 2018) to protest the child separation policy following a resolution they passed (Ibid) insisting that Congress to do the same at a recent gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Further, the mayors created an action plan they can follow in the days ahead after surveying the situation at the Southern border. Mayor Steve Benjamin, the president of the Conference, told CityLab,
We are assessing what local tools we have in our toolbox of practica, things we can do,.... Is it possible we can set up a tracking system so our children could find out if and when their parents are deported? Can we arrange for on-site counselors and childcare workers? Can we help fund immigration lawyers for parents and children, so they have access to counsel?
It remains to be seen just how far the mayors can go, but their proposed actions are an example of localism. The mayors are in the best positions to develop and implement solutions to this heinous federal policy than lawmakers in Washington D.C. The solutions they devise are based on the resources available to them at municipal level. Mayor Sylvester Turner told CityLab,
The day that we as Americans sanitize or anesthetize ourselves to behaviors and actions send policies is the day that we are all in trouble. So let's be very careful that we not say we will leave it to the policymakers to change the policy.... We are the policymakers
Frankly speaking, after nearly a year-and-half in office, it is long past time that the president take ownership for his policy instead of blaming former President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats, or try to distract everyone with some hairbrained idea for a space force. You implemented this policy, you own it, lock, stock, and crying babies.