LANSING — The letter below was sent to President Donald Trump, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions by 166 state and local elected officials today. The letter urges the Administration, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Attorney General to immediately end the practice of detaining and incarcerating families seeking asylum at the United States – Mexico border and to immediately reunify families that have already been separated.
The letter is signed by elected officials from 27 states and Puerto Rico, and will be updated periodically with any additional signers at http://bit.ly/stopdetainingfamiliesletter. Any state or local elected official who has not signed on yet can sign on at http://bit.ly/stopdetainingfamilies.
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear President Trump, Secretary Nielsen, and Attorney General Sessions,
We, the undersigned state and local elected officials, are writing to urge the Administration, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Attorney General to immediately end the practice of detaining and incarcerating families seeking asylum at the United States – Mexico border and to immediately reunify families that have already been separated.
Our country has certain fundamental values, and among those are opportunity and justice. Lady Liberty, our nation’s symbol for the hope and optimism that our country stands for, calls out: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Families seeking protection and freedom in our country should not be treated as criminals, nor should their innocent children be subjected to unnecessary trauma. Therefore we request that policies regarding length of detention of these families be re-examined to ensure that no family is detained for an undue amount of time.
We understand that more than 2300 children were separated from their families under the current “zero tolerance” policy. Many of these individuals from Central America who are crossing the border are simply seeking a better life for their families, away from the fear of violence and persecution in their home countries. Because of your zero tolerance policy, even those who arrive at ports of entry to seek asylum faced being separated from their families. Adults are charged with illegal border crossing and detained, while your administration treated their children as “unaccompanied minors” and placed them at shelters or sent them to foster care systems across our country.
Some of the children who have been separated from their family members are toddlers and babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics has pointed out that “highly stressful experiences, like family separation, can cause irreparable harm, disrupting a child’s brain architecture and affecting his or her short- and long-term health. This type of prolonged exposure to serious stress – known as toxic stress – can carry lifelong consequences for children.”
Unfortunately, the recent Executive Order still does not provide a plan for reunification of the many families already harmed under the administration's zero tolerance policy. We demand a plan for speedily and humanely re-uniting separated children with their families, one worthy of a nation that claims to be a beacon of liberty, freedom, and quality of life.
We are Democratic and Republican officials in states across the country. Many of us are mothers or fathers of young children. Some of us are immigrants ourselves or children of immigrants. As public servants from diverse backgrounds who believe that our nation’s policies must respect people’s humanity and dignity, we stand united in urging you to immediately end the inhumane treatment of vulnerable families at our border.