Texas Politics

Texas Democrat: 'There's a special place in hell' for leaders who didn't stop family separations

Texas Democrats are among those heading to the border this weekend.

They will protest the separation of migrant children from their families that occurred under the "zero tolerance" policy President Donald Trump recently agreed to end. And they will call for already separated families to be reunited.

"The images we saw on TV were just jaw-dropping," said Tarrant County Justice of the Peace Sergio DeLeon, who on Sunday heads to Tornillo, a border city that houses a temporary shelter for undocumented children. "The sound of all those babies crying was tear jerking.

"This whole dark period we've been going through with this policy is unconscionable," he said. "It is totally unAmerican and not who we are as a nation. We can do better."

The issue of separating migrant children from their families was a dominant theme Friday on the first day of the Texas Democratic Party's state convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Trump just days ago signed an order ending the policy that separated migrant families at the border and sent children, even babies, to other facilities across the state.

The order continues the policy of prosecuting anyone caught illegally crossing the border. But family members are now allowed to be detained together.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa kicked off the state convention saying that history will judge those responsible for this immigration policy that tore countless families apart.

"There's a special place in hell for them," he said. "I’m going to stand up and fight but I need all of y’all to stand up and fight. When immigrants are under attack, we need to stand up and fight for them.

"It’s on us to show ... that, in our Texas, we care for each other."

'Abhorrent policy'

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has said it is "an atrocity that families are being torn apart at our borders, and in my state of Texas."

"This is an abhorrent policy and I will continue working to put an end to family separation and ensure this does not become our new normal," said Veasey, who serves as chairman of this year's convention. "We need real long-lasting immigration reform, and protection for our DREAMers and active duty service members and veterans, who have fought for our country."

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the El Paso Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for his Senate seat this November, is among those traveling to Tornillo this weekend.

Protesters opposed to the policy, many carrying signs saying "We care," lined the sidewalk outside the local office of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, Friday morning.

Republican leaders who gathered at their state convention last week in San Antonio didn't publicly address the issue during their speeches.

Democrats this week did.

"I care," said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston. "Do you?"

Thousands of Democrats shouted "Yes!"

Taking action

In the exhibit hall, the Julie Johnson booth accepted donations — ranging from puzzles and Hot Wheels to shampoo and deodorant — for migrant children separated from their parents, some of whom are being served by Catholic Charities Fort Worth.

Delegates from across the state said they planned to attend a Families First Rally — sponsored by the Democratic Party, Indivisible FWTX and the Texas AFL-CIO — at 9:30 a.m Saturday at the Houston Street-12th Street intersection outside the convention center.

And most of the elected officials who spoke to delegates mentioned the need to do better.

"This is inhumane," said state Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass. "Those children don't know if they will see their parents again."

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, echoed those concerns.

"How we treat immigrants has become the defining issue of our time," he said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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