Elected officials speak out on separating children from parents illegally crossing US border
Speaking publicly against separating children from their parents who crossed the United States border illegally isn’t something Vacaville resident Michael Kitzes is taking lightly.
“I struggled with it for awhile,” he said about going public in opposition to how the children are being treated. “They’re ripping these children away from families.”
Kitzes, a Vacaville Unified School board member and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for 28 years, added that it might be easy to call this an immigration issue, but it’s so much more than that.
“Their focus is deterrence,” he said of the country’s administration. “But these are children. The ends don’t justify the means when you’re dealing with children.”
Fellow VUSD board member Shelley Dally agreed.
“There are other ways to deal with this problem,” she said of people immigrating illegally into the United State. “It should be separate. We don’t do this to children. We can find other ways to deal with immigration.”
The two board members spoke during a recent VUSD board meeting during board member comments, a part of the meeting where they can freely speak. However, colleagues said the board meeting wasn’t an appropriate place to speak about issues that are not directly related to the district.
Kitzes and Dally disagree.
“This does directly effect our children. Our children are wondering what to do,” he said. “Kids are not stupid, this resonates with them. ... I have this platform and I’m going to use it.”
“It was appropriate to talk about,” Dally said. “I wasn’t speaking for the rest of the board.”
Kitzes added that not only will these incidents be a “permanent stain” on the United States, but the children are suffering “irreparable, lifelong damage.”
“People have lost track of what’s it like to be a 4-year-old child, to escape poverty, violence, then to be separated from the only person they know,” Kitzes said. “There will be damage to many of these kids for their whole life.”
He also shared similar sentiments in a column that ran in Sunday’s edition of The Reporter and shared on social media.
Not everyone shared his view.
“Follow our laws and these things will not happen,” wrote one reader.
Others compared separating the families at the border to separating American families when a parent goes to jail or when Child Protective Services step in.
“When someone chooses to come into this country illegally, they are breaking the law,” another post reads in part. “They are making a poor choice and accepting the consequences of that choice. The consequences impact both themselves and their children. That’s part of being a parent. Your choices effect your children.”
Another reader offered a different view.
“Seeking a better life for your family just because you happened to be born south of the border is not the same thing as robbing, raping, or killing. If you were born south of the border, I guarantee the tone of these responses would change 180 degrees.”
Congressman John Garamendi, D-Solano, standing on the floor of the House of Representatives Tuesday evening didn’t mince words.
Armed with enlarged photos of children being detained within a cage-like facility and one of a toddler crying at the feet of her mother, Garamendi spoke out against what was occurring at the country’s border.
“Whatever the reason is for their arrival at our border, we know this about them, they came here seeking the best of America, the promise of this country and we put them in a cage,” he said, his voice loud and trembling. “What have we become?”
He went on to ask, “Is this the America we want? Is this the America we have come to be? Is this the America that has lost its moral compass?”
Garamendi goes on to ask if this is the price of a border wall, to hold these children ransom?
“This is not America, this is not what we should expect from the man who occupies the highest office in this land,” he said. “We need to cry out in moral outrage, ‘Stop it! Stop it now!’”
Reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon in Washington D.C., Garamendi said he’s pleased with the latest change to reverse a problem that, he said, President Donald Trump and United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions created.
Trump was poised to sign an executive order later Wednesday that would end the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally.
However, according to Garamendi, it’s incomplete.
He explained that it creates a very significant problem and creates a program to “indefinitely detain them.” However, it’s contrary to an order that limits the number of days a child can be detained to 20.
Garamendi and several other representatives have coauthored “Keep Families Together Act,” which prohibits an agent or officer of a designated agency from removing a child from his or her parent or legal guardian, at or near the port of entry or within 100 miles of the border of the United States.
There are exceptions, including if the child is a victim of trafficking or is at significant risk of becoming a victim of trafficking and if the child is in danger of abuse or neglect at the hands of the parent or legal guardian, or is a danger to themselves or others.
Garamendi added that moving forward the county should assist the three countries (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) from where a majority are fleeing to the United State for asylum.
“Parents will do everything to protect their children,” he said. “What was happening was reprehensible, inhumane and un-American.”
Meanwhile, Kitzes also weighed in on the change in policy.
“We’ll see now how bad the system is,” he said of the likely thousands of children separated from their parents. “The system wasn’t prepared. Adults have already been deported without their children. We’re still left with the travesty.”