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MISSION, RGV – State Sen. Juan Hinojosa says the State of Texas should not grant licenses for new immigrant detention centers until the Trump Administration ends its family separation policy.

As a child, Hinojosa was deported to Mexico, even though he was a U.S. citizen. It took he and his mother a year to get back from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, to Mission, Texas. “They never separated me from my mother. They did separate me from my father,” Hinojosa recalled.

Asked whether the State of Texas should issue licenses for new detention centers for immigrants, Hinojosa said:

“If it were in my power I would certainly withhold a license until the Trump’s Administration stopped this practice of separating mothers from their children. Unfortunately, it is not the decision of the legislature, it is a decision made by the state government and its institutions.”

State Rep. Ana Hernandez

Hinojosa made his comment after being told about a letter sent to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services by state Rep. Ana Hernandez of Houston. In the letter, sent June 18, 2018, to the Hon. Henry “Hank” Whitman, Jr., commissioner for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, Hernandez called for a halt on the issuance of a general residential operation license through its Child Care Licensing (CCL) division.

Here is the letter:

Commissioner Whitman

It has come to my attention that Southwest Key Programs has submitted an application for a general residential operating license for a new childcare facility to be located at 419 Emancipation Avenue, Houston, Texas 77003. The proposed facility would house up to 240 immigrant minors, ranging from age 0 to 17.

There are grave concerns regarding this applicant’s ability to safely provide for additional charges under their care. Southwest Key Programs currently maintains a facility in Brownsville (Operation Number 1648917) that has been cited for 13 different deficiencies by DFPS inspectors. These lapses in compliance range widely from inadequate documentation and record-keeping to unsafe food preparation.

These shortcomings bring into question the applicant’s bandwidth to adequately provide for children who have been forcibly separated from their loved ones. I ask that the Department halt the issuance of a license for this proposed facility, barring a rigorous inspection of all licensed operations under Southwest Key Program’s oversight. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Ana Hernandez

Texas State Representative

District 143

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Hinojosa told his story of deportation.

“I was deported with my mother when I was five years old, even though I was a U.S. citizen. My mother was undocumented and they brought us to the Hidalgo Bridge and bussed us back to Mexico.

“But, they did not separate us. I was separated from my father. He would come and visit us almost every other week.”

Asked when he got back to the U.S., Hinojosa said:

“I was kept in Reynosa a year. Back then there was a better immigration policy in place. It would allow those who were undocumented but married to a U.S. citizen to gain their legal residency. That was how my mother was able to gain her legal residency. My father was a truck driver and a U.S. citizen.”

Asked about the Trump policy of separating Central American asylum-seeking parents from their children, Hinojosa said:

“What is happening now is immoral, inhumane, it is cruel what they are doing to the young children and the mothers. This is not who we are as a country. This is not what we stand for as a country. It is just amazing. We need for people to speak up. 

“We can only empathize with how a mother must feel to have her child snatched away from her. Possibly never seeing that child again.”

Asked if he was shocked by the family separation policy, Hinojosa said:

“It is shocking. To me, it is beyond comprehension, from the stories I have read and the pictures I have seen, children who are two or three years old, others who are still being breast-fed, being taken away from their mothers. I would never have thought our country would do something as heartless as this.”

Put to him that he did not fight for his country to enact policies like this, Hinojosa said: “I am a Vietnam Veteran, a Marine, real proud of our country, but this is not what this country stands for.”

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