June 07, 2018

Castro Remarks at House Democratic Leaders Press Conference on Separation of Immigrant Children

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WASHINGTON—Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), First Vice Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, made the following statement at a press conference on the separation of immigrant children from their families:

“Thank you Congressman Crowley, Chairman Crowley. Thank you for the letter and for all of your work in highlighting, really the inhumanity of this issue. Under President Trump, separating young kids from their parents has become standard government practice and our best numbers indicate that in a two week period in May, there were somewhere around 658 children that were separated from their parents. News accounts say that some of these children are as young as 18 months old, that are being left without the care of their parents.

“Now bear in mind that many of the people who are being separated are folks who are not violating any law. They’re coming here not trying to evade border patrol, presenting themselves at the border and asking to be considered for asylum—consistent with international law. As you know, these are people that are fleeing often times very violent and dangerous situations, threats by organized drug gangs and cartels. They are folks who are fleeing for their lives.

“They’re coming here and seeking refuge for the very reasons that under international law we recognize the right of somebody to present themselves, not just at the U.S border, but at any international border and ask for asylum and to be considered for asylum. And rather than allow that process to go forward as a way to deter anybody from asking for asylum in the United States, the Attorney General and the President, as a way to deter them and to pulverize their souls and spirits, has decided to separate young kids from their families, from their parents.

“And it was remarkable. Yesterday I believe, the United Nations spoke out against this practice by the United States. The United States is the biggest contributor and supporter and host to the United Nations body. The United States over the generations has been a nation that has stood for freedom, for human rights, for the dignity of people. To have the United Nations speak out against the United States on this issue—it was very disturbing. But unfortunately, the action by this President, it was also deserved.

“Last week when much of the details about the separations started to come to light, I helped organize a rally in San Antonio, Texas—my hometown—where we had 300 people that came out to say very clearly that we can enforce our immigration laws and still treat people like human beings. Just because somebody crosses the border does not make that person nonhuman. We should still treat them like human beings. I also made a remark at that rally and thankfully the ACLU and other groups have now organized days of action. One of them was last Friday. I know that there are more coming up.

“I said, and I believe, that if we can’t stop this kind of stuff from happening in the United States of America, then I don’t think we can stop it from happening anywhere around the world. And the President has lost his moral clarity on this issue. We should not, in trying to enforce immigration laws, lose our own humanity in the process.

“One more issue to address, and that’s the episode over the weekend of Senator Merkley from Oregon visiting a detention center in Texas after his staff had apparently given advance notice that the Senator wanted to visit the detention center in Brownsville—a detention center that was housing young kids—and Senator Merkley was denied access.

“Well, I’m working on drafting legislation now, and I hope I can get the support of my colleagues, that will guarantee access to members of Congress to these detention facilities. It’s important because they’re housing vulnerable people, particularly minors, that members of Congress, who are charged with the oversight function of the executive agencies, that we have the ability to inspect the facilities.

“I understand that there are sometimes concerns about the fact that people need notice, the folks who administer these facilities maybe, may need some notice—and I think that that’s fair. But there also must be a group of members of Congress, chairmen or chairwomen for example, and ranking members and perhaps a few others, who should have the ability to make unannounced visits to do inspections. And so that legislation is in the drafting process now.

“And with that, I‘d like to introduce my great colleague from Arizona, Raul Grijalva.”

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