As outrage mounted over the federal government’s policy of separating detained immigrant children from their families, I was invited by Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina to join him on a mission to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) organized this visit to the so-called “tent city” in Tornillo, Texas for mayors to tour the facility and get answers on the living conditions and the time-line for family reunification.
Among elected officials, mayors are the most nonpartisan in nature, generally focusing on solutions rather than party politics. Our group, which included the mayors of New York, Los Angeles, and 17 other cities, wasn’t in Tornillo to make a political statement, but a humanitarian one. However, like other elected officials from all levels of government who have attempted to visit these detention camps in recent days, we were denied access, further fueling speculation about the conditions inside the facility and the intentions of the government’s policies along the border.
The separation of these immigrant families is a human rights crisis that demands an immediate solution. Although the president’s executive order on June 20 reversed the policy, now comes the real work of actually reuniting these families. With thousands of children detained at facilities all around the country, this won’t be an easy task, and partisan bickering will only delay the process. I hope the federal agencies tasked with righting this wrong can take the solution-oriented approach advocated by the mayors who visited Tornillo.
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I call on our federal elected officials to take a cue from the USCM and stop treating immigration as a partisan issue. We are, after all, a nation founded not by Republicans or Democrats, but by immigrants.