Local elected officials from Pima County, Tucson and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe called for an end to the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border at a news conference Thursday.
“Today we stand together and we plead, not one more day,” Dustin Williams, Pima County superintendent of schools, said at the Pima County Administration Building in downtown Tucson.
As part of the recent “zero tolerance” policy put into effect by the Trump administration, children and parents who cross the border illegally may be separated from each other, with parents sent to jail and children put in government custody or foster care.
Along with the separation of families, the administration recently announced asylum may no longer be granted to victims of domestic violence or gang violence.
Williams spoke about the trauma associated with separating a child from their parents and how detrimental it can be to a child.
“The number one factor for destroying a child’s life is separating them from their mother, their father or their family,” said Williams.
Robert Valencia, chairman of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, agreed with Williams that family separation leads to trauma that can be long-lasting. Valencia said previous separations of Pascua Yaqui families by the federal government affect tribal members even now.
“Generations down we are still dealing with this,” Valencia said.
“What is happening today has happened before,” said state Rep. Sally Ann Gonzales, a Democrat from Tucson.
Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild read aloud the letter he wrote, along with the mayors of Albuquerque, Houston and Los Angeles, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for an end to the separation of families. In the letter, the mayors called the policy cruel, morally reprehensible and “flawed on every level.”
Rothschild, a Democrat, said even though local city governments have little control over immigration policy, the challenges posed by this policy affect the people they serve, which is why they are pushing Sessions to work with Congress “to advance rational, comprehensive immigration.”
“How can we call ourselves a Christian nation when we separate families?” said Democratic Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson.
Bronson, along with other speakers, said separating families was an inhumane and intolerable act committed by the government against families, children and mothers.
“The time for civil disobedience fast approaches,” Bronson said. “Besides making a statement, let’s make a difference.”
The Pima County Board of Supervisors and the Tucson City Council will each meet on June 19 to consider a resolution opposing family separation.