The Signal Tribune newspaper

The 115th Session | July 6, 2018

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Recently, I traveled to southern Texas to visit three facilities where children and parents were detained apart. I had to see the impact of the Trump Administration’s brutal family-separation policy for myself and let my constituents know what was really going on.

What I saw was simply heartbreaking.

Parents who just had their children whisked away with no warning, wondering what had happened. Young children penned up like animals– torn from their parents and left to languish on concrete floors with nothing to comfort them except paper-thin Mylar blankets. In another facility, their parents were racked with torment and uncertainty– told they would be able to talk to their children, only to be told later that it was not possible. We saw children calling out for their parents, and parents crying out for their children.

As a legislator, I was angered by how dehumanizing the whole process is for detainees and their children. As a psychologist, I was outraged over the seeming lack of concern this policy has for the trauma it is clearly causing. As a person, I was devastated to see how our nation could treat our fellow human beings.

I thought of my own family, who fled Eastern Europe and were able to settle here– of the stories my relatives told me of being processed through Ellis Island. All in pursuit of liberty and freedom: the same thing the asylum seekers I met in Texas are looking for.
This whole immigration system is simply un-American. It lacks compassion. It goes against our fundamental values. We have been a beacon of freedom to the entire world. These parents– these children– they are not bad people. They are simply seeking freedom. Freedom from violence. Freedom from danger. Freedom from oppression.

We have a moral duty to treat these families, who are vulnerable, poor and suffering, with dignity and compassion. Families must be reunited immediately. Then we must work to put in place a humane system that upholds our laws but does not cause us to lose our collective souls in the process.

We need to pass legislation to immediately end the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that treats families fleeing violence in Central America as criminals, and instead one that protects the rights of those claiming asylum.

We also need to adequately fund our immigration courts, so these families can make their case for asylum. Hundreds of thousands now wait in an asylum backlog for years because we cannot adjudicate their claims. We have delayed justice for these families escaping violence and persecution for a better life in the United States—they deserve to be heard.

The crisis at our southern border is cruel and inhumane, but it is evidence of a larger truth: our immigration system lacks needed compassion. We can’t solve a humanitarian crisis with a lack of humanity. It’s past time for Congress to put forward a comprehensive immigration reform policy that upholds our values and ideals of justice and equality.

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The 115th Session | July 6, 2018