Republican leaders, energizing the troops at their state convention this weekend, wildly applauded key issues they always embrace: preserving Second Amendment gun rights; anti-abortion efforts; lowering taxes; and publicly-funded school choice.
But they were shamefully silent as they tip-toed around the elephant in this elephant’s gathering which is threatening to bring media and child advocates from across the nation to Texas.
We’re talking about the Trump administration’s new policy of criminally charging immigrants who come across our southern border without authorization, then using that charge to justify separating the parents from their children.
Until recently, the immigrant adults were usually charged with civil violations which allowed them to be detained with their children while their cases were handled by the courts.
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Now, children, reportedly as young as 18-months, have been forcibly taken from their parents. Their numbers are growing so quickly plans are being made to open large group detention centers, and to possibly house them in “air-conditioned” tent cities in Texas.
Tent cities? Texas had those for convicted criminals in 1981 because of prison overcrowding. Housing inmates in tents was controversial then. So, why would it be OK for small children now?
We repeat what we've said: Separating immigrant children from their parents is inhumane and should end. The American Psychological Association calls the policy “needless and cruel,” and said the longer the children and parents are separated the more likely it is the children will develop “psychological distress, academic difficulties and disruptions in their development.”
Our chief deal-maker, the President, is shamefully using children as a bargaining chip as he attempts to strong-arm Congress into delivering on his immigration priorities - a border wall and further restrictions on who can enter the United States legally.
It’s ridiculous to hear Trump blame Democrats as he did Friday when he tweeted: “The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”
When Republicans control the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the White House they get to take the blame or the credit for the immigration policies being enforced.
They own this issue. The Republicans in Texas who control all branches of government here also own it if they don’t openly object and advocate for better solutions.
We were hoping to hear our state’s Republican leaders reject the practice and promote other means of securing our borders. Are they unable to come up with better solutions? Are they afraid of disagreeing with the President and facing the wrath of his vengeful tweets?
Top Texas Republicans don't object
When we asked Gov. Greg Abbott’s office and campaign if he supports the administration’s policy his office quoted from an interview Abbott recently gave to NBC5 in North Texas: "This is horrible and this rips everyone's hearts apart about what is going on,” Abbott said, adding he’d talked to Trump: “He said, listen if the Democrats would agree with him right now they could pass a law today that would end the ripping apart of these families and make the border secure.” Again, aren’t the Republicans in control?
Sen. Ted Cruz told San Antonio radio station KSAT, “I would like to see an outcome where we endeavor to keep family units together — to keep mom and dad with their kids.” But Cruz didn’t say he opposes what’s going on.
Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican, didn’t respond to our queries.
We understand the need to control unlawful immigration and border crime. But separating these children from their parents will do nothing to stop the cross-border drug trade or crime and human trafficking. If anything this places children in greater jeopardy of being mistreated and abused.
Dallas County stepping forward
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, in the meantime, is reaching out to Republican leaders he won’t name, offering to house some of the children in Dallas County where around 2,000 were cared for in 2014 during the wave of unaccompanied immigrant minors.
Jenkins, a Democrat, told us service providers in Dallas County are willing to meet standards required to take care of the children and provide them with medical, psychological and educational services. That’s better than tents.
Jenkins says he doesn’t want to make this a partisan issue, he just wants to provide “the most compassionate care possible.”
When the Democrats meet for their state convention next week, however, the partisan difference will be obvious. They won’t quietly sidestep this practice. They’ll loudly condemn it. And on this issue we think they’re right.