WESLACO, RGV – Texas’ two Republican senators came to the Rio Grande Valley to visit two facilities where immigrant children are being held in federal custody.
But, they did not propose a clear solution on how those of “tender age” are going to be reunited with their detained parents.
Legislation co-authored by U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz states that any qualifying immigrant family awaiting court proceedings when the bill is signed into law will be required to be allowed to stay together.
“Most compelling thing that I saw, I saw babies, weeks old,” Cornyn said. “We asked the mother how old she was, she said 16 years old with an 8-week-old child and it breaks your heart.”
Cruz was equally moved by what he saw.
“My hope is in the coming days or weeks, will we see Republicans and Democrats coming together to ensure the kids stay with the parents,” Cruz said, at a press conference after their tour.
“I believe steps are already in their way to reunite children that are already separated from their parents,” Cornyn added.
The senators said the children are receiving medical attention, education classes and recreation in the centers they visited.
However, an organization that defends the rights of immigrants showed its disappointment that the nearly 2,300 children from Central America separated from their parents as a consequence of President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy are not going to be reunited anytime soon.
“Until they pass some legislation it will continue the same,” said Eddie Anaya, attorney and executive committee member of Valley Interfaith.
Anaya along mayors, judges, state lawmakers, federal officials and nonprofit leaders in South Texas participated in a roundtable convened by the senators at the Border Patrol’s regional headquarters in Weslaco on Friday.
Cruz and Cornyn have jointly introduced the Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act to end the separation of immigrant parents and children at the border. They say they will pursue bipartisan legislation.
However, Anaya said there are legitimate concerns about what will happen with detained children before any legislation is passed. He said there does not seem to be a plan in place to reunify detained families in the short term.
“Until now there have been family parents detained, and children who are scattered in 100 different agencies throughout the United States in 14 states. There is not a plan that is effective to bring these families together,” Anaya said.
The Rio Grande Guardian asked Anaya what the response of the senators was when asked about the process of reuniting families already separated.
“Their response was to listen. That was their answer. Listen to the community, listen to the problems. But we urging them to take the leadership, to take the position of power they have to do legislation,” said Anaya.
Through a news release, Valley Interfaith urged Congress, to reunite the 2,300-plus children who are currently in custody with their parents and electronically monitor, rather than detain theses families.
Also, it urged that pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, and pediatric nurses be sent to the centers, especially those centers specializing in infants and to take swift action because under the so-called Flores Settlement, the detention of minors with or without the parents can only last up to 20 days.
“The president was the one who created this problem, through the so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy. If you cross illegally, they will arrest you for a crime and by law they will separate you from the children, that is the problem,” Anaya said.
“We are telling them (Texas’ two senators), now we need them to pass legislation to resolve the problem, because we believe this problem will be resolved by legislation, not by executive orders; not by the president, but by their leadership.”
Libby Hambleton, Sen. Cornyn’s deputy press secretary, later explained what is in Section 2 of the “Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act.” The section is entitled “Family Unification.” Hambleton said the section requires that families “stay together while they await court proceedings.” She said the bill “doesn’t specify only new families arriving and that any qualifying immigrant family awaiting court proceedings when the bill is signed into law will be required to be allowed to stay together.”