WEST HOLLYWOOD — The city and the Strategic Insights Group hosted a panel discussion July 31 about the facts behind the “zero-tolerance” immigration policy and ways to help reunite children and families.
The event took place at the West Hollywood Library. Opening remarks were delivered by West Hollywood Mayor John J. Duran and Mayor Pro Tem John D’Amico.
Featured panelists included Mito Aviles, community organizer and activist; Apolonio Morales, political director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; and Tai Sunnanon, chief executive officer of the Strategic Insights Group. Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of the nonprofit organization, Lupenet, joined via live video feed from Texas.
Since early May, more than 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security. This is part of a new immigration strategy adopted by the Trump administration referred to as the “zero-tolerance” policy.
The policy includes prosecuting all people who cross the border illegally, including parents traveling with their children and people who subsequently attempt to request asylum. Under the policy, the administration began separating all families who cross the border.
Once they are separated from their parents, children are held at Customs and Border Protection facilities and then transferred to longer term detention centers with the Office of Refugee Resettlement. After much public outcry, the president signed an executive order replacing the family separation policy with a family detention policy that is meant to keep families together while they are being detained, but there are still many families that have been separated that face an uncertain future.
“If you’re not outraged by this, then you’re not paying attention,” Duran said. “Let’s be clear, these are the policies of the Trump administration and they are cruel and inhumane. Families that are desperately seeking to flee from danger and violence should not be subjected to the trauma of being torn apart by our nation. This is not what the United States of America promises. Instead, our country should stand by what Emma Lazarus described in her sonnet attached to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: ‘Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”
“It’s clear that the family separation policy and the humanitarian crisis it spawned continues,” D’Amico added. “There was never an organized plan to reunite these families and the president’s executive order to replace the family separation policy with a family detention policy still offers no roadmap to reunite the thousands of children who remain separated from their parents. These policies are monstrous and the people that put them in place are monsters.”
The city of West Hollywood has continually supported state and federal legislation protecting and advancing the fundamental rights of its community members including LGBT people, people with disabilities, seniors, people of color, immigrants, women and others.
In December 2016, the West Hollywood City Council reaffirmed its commitment to its core values, which includes Respect and Support for People. West Hollywood is a safe space, regardless of nationality or immigration status, and the city has a commitment to promoting social justice and equal rights.