Standing with mayors from across the country in Texas Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio decried the “inhumane” policy that led to the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents and said President Donald Trump’s Wednesday executive order “has not solved the problem.
“Zero tolerance still exists. That’s breaking an American tradition of respecting people fleeing oppression,” he said at a news conference before attempting to tour the Tornillo Migrant Children’s Facility. “The families are not reunified. We don’t know when they’ll be.”
Later Thursday, Trump said he was directing federal agencies to begin reuniting children and parents who had been separated, but no specific timeline was announced.
Facing outcry, Trump had signed an executive order on Wednesday to stop the separations and detain families together. The order moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings, but it does not end a 10-week-old “zero tolerance” policy that calls for prosecution of immigrants crossing the border without legal permission.
Mayor de Blasio and fellow @USMayors tried to gain access to a tent city holding children who the federal government separated from their parents in Tornillo, Texas. #FamiliesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/k8RlvODimu— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) June 21, 2018
De Blasio visited an East Harlem shelter Wednesday where hundreds of children had been brought after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. He said he had only learned about their arrivals that day, despite them first coming months before.
In Texas, he repeated the story of 9-year-old Eddie, who was taken from his mom and put on a bus from Texas to New York City.
“Think of how broken that is, and our government didn’t even tell us it was happening,” he said.
The mayor said later Thursday that he would make sure the children housed in the city have “legal support” and that “mental health services and the physical health services are there for them.
“So we’re going to do everything we can to help them and to push for their reunification with their parents immediately.”
De Blasio said the gathering in Texas, organized by the United States Conference of Mayors, was a symbol of hope.
“The hope is that people are demanding a change and it cannot be ignored,” he said. “And if it won’t happen in Washington, we will make it happen.”
The mayors planned to tour the Tornillo Migrant Children’s Facility, but they were denied entry.
“The fact is this is our federal government denying access, not allowing information — and it’s not American, it’s crazy. They’ve turned away senators, they’ve turned away members of Congress, I’ve never seen anything like this. These are public facilities payed for with taxpayer dollars. How on Earth are we not allowed to see what is happening to these children?” de Blasio said.