Other Voices

Rep. Kay Granger, here’s some tough questions you can ask on asylum, splitting families

In April 2018, the federal government announced its “zero-tolerance” policy toward people crossing the southwestern U.S. border. Reports soon emerged of the actions our government was taking against families who thought they’d reached safe harbor after escaping violence in their homelands.

Every Friday for more than a year, average folks like myself have gathered near Rep. Kay Granger’s office, demanding action — because our representative should have been adding her voice to the dozens in Congress calling for an immediate repeal of the inhumane policy.

Instead, we got silence, followed by a lukewarm statement about needing a “better way” to secure the border. Granger was part of a meeting that congressional Republicans had with President Donald Trump in which, reports say, only the president spoke and not a single lawmaker asked a question.

After months of silence on the border issue, Granger issued a statement from her office in January, speaking of better technology, keeping drugs out, hiring more border agents and enhancing the physical barrier.

In February, the Fort Worth Republican told Fox News the same, while conceding that in a 2014 trip to Central America, she’d seen “what would be so bad that parents would send their children to a country they’ve never been to with someone they’ve never met. Those countries are very, very dangerous.”

In April, she said of aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador: “Where programs are working, they should continue to receive our support.”

What was working until Trump took office? Immigration courts and ports of entry. Justice Department statistics show that between 2013 and 2017, 92 percent of asylum seekers appeared in court to receive a final decision on their claims. Customs and Border Protection says that 80%-90% of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl seized along the border in 2018 was intercepted at ports of entry.

When the Trump administration began limiting asylum seekers from staking their claims, the stage was set for the current manufactured crisis. Desperate families had no alternative but to cross anywhere they could.

Granger visited the border in February and April. I don’t have a congressional salary or budget, but I wanted to see things for myself.

Last week, I delivered cash and supplies to nonprofit groups assisting migrants in McAllen and spent three days volunteering at a humanitarian respite center there. I saw children with shoelaces fashioned from shredded Mylar blankets. I heard stories of parents and children being detained for a week – after a weeks-long journey to America. Hundreds of people arrived daily, including many children fresh out of ICE detention. I delivered stuffed animals to children about to board a bus toward a new life in the U.S.

It’s evident the cruelty behind this administration’s policies was by design; consider the reports of atrocious conditions in the detention centers. Each day brings more reports of the trauma inflicted on innocent migrant children.

Granger, with 22 years in Congress and her position as the top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, should be vociferously rejecting these abhorrent policies and persistently demanding answers: How will families be reunited? Why are children dying in custody? How were conditions at detention centers allowed to deteriorate to such dreadful levels? Why are federal contracts being awarded to build more detention centers? She should have been pounding on doors at Tornillo and Ursula, demanding answers instead of taking the scenic photo-op tour.

I am a public school teacher. If administrators want to check on me, I don’t get 24 hours’ notice. They just open the door to my classroom and walk in.

So why do lawmakers have to get guided tours of our migrant detention facilities?

Granger said in April that she wanted to “address the root causes of the migration crisis.” Until she shows some true leadership to do just that, we’ll be on her sidewalk every Friday.

Ernie Moran of Fort Worth is the founder of Patriots for the Children and a former Star-Telegram reporter and editor.
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