For Immediate Release
PHOENIX, AZ – Today, Congressman Rubén Gallego (AZ-07); the President of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), Senator Carmelo Ríos (PR); Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus Co-Chair, State Representative Diego Espinoza (AZ-19), and Delegate Elizabeth Guzmán (VA-31) gathered in Phoenix to call attention to the latest facts on the ground, related to family separation resulting from the Trump Administration’s so-called “zero tolerance policy” at the southern border. More than 30 Latino state lawmakers from across the country, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, came to Arizona for NHCSL’s bi-annual Executive Committee meeting.
“Weeks after the court-imposed deadline for family reunification, it’s completely unacceptable that hundreds of migrant children are still separated from their parents,” said Congressman Gallego. “The Trump administration is needlessly traumatizing these vulnerable kids through its incompetence and indifference. I continue to call on the President to use every available tool to immediately reunite these families, including by allowing mothers who have already been deported to legally return to the United States.”
During their stay in Phoenix, the legislators visited the Southwest Key child detention center and held meetings with local stakeholders working on family reunification efforts. Congressman Gallego and NHCSL members also highlighted proposed actions that need to be taken to guarantee family reunification happens in the most expedited and appropriate manner, that also secures the safety of the children and families involved.
“We are here to denounce the injustice of needlessly separating families who are lawfully seeking asylum. That is why I call it the ‘zero humanity policy.’ We cannot be effective advocates without learning firsthand, the conditions facing these children, inspecting the facility, and engaging with local stakeholders who are in the front lines of this battle for human dignity,” Senator Ríos said. “We must turn this fact finding and engagement mission into action. When Democrats deported immigrants, we called them out. And if this Administration keeps it up, we’ll be here calling them out again. At the same time, there are a host of actions we can take at the state and local levels, such as: provide funding so that these children have access to legal services, make sure detention facilities accountable comply with state and local standards, and provide English Language Learners (ELL) educational services.”
State Rep. Espinoza, who is also the Co-Chair of the Arizona Latino Legislative Caucus, and member of NHCSL’s Executive Committee, said: “We saw children today who are still waiting to be reunited with their parents so there is clearly more work to do. As elected leaders we want to make sure every child is safe is reunited. I also want to emphasize that their welfare is not purely a federal concern. There is city, county and state oversight of these facilities, and we have to do much more to ensure the safety of these children.”
Members of NHCSL’s Executive Committee also held a discussion with the Consul General of Gutaemala in Phoenix, Ambassador Oscar Padilla, and the Consul of Mexico in Phoenix, Ambassador Claudia Franco, who are working tirelessly to address the myriad of challenges these separated children face. During the session, consular officials provided key details of their interactions with the children, detention centers, the government, and the community at large.
“I will never forget the babies I held, and I will forever remember the stories of violence that I heard. Girls under the age of 18 have been victims of abuse, rape and violence while pursuing their American Dream. Let's be clear that this administration has changed the rules to keep domestic violence victims from seeking asylum and that’s inhumane,” said Del. Guzmán, who is an immigrant, a mother, and a social worker. “There are hundreds of children who are still detained and hundreds of parents who have been deported. This issue has not been resolved and as Hispanic legislators we must act now,” Guzmán.
Legislators also met yesterday with advocates who are providing critical support services to the kids who are held in these detention facilities. Representatives from the ACLU of Arizona, the Florence Project, the Young Center, and Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest shared their experiences in attempting to fill the gaps in the chaos that has been wrought by the cruel family separation policy enacted by the Trump Administration.
NHCSL is the premier national association of Hispanic state legislators working to design and implement policies and procedures that will improve the quality of life for Hispanics throughout the country. NHCSL was founded in 1989 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)3 with the mission to be the most effective voice for the more than 400 Hispanic legislators. For more information visit www.nhcsl.org.