DURAN | Colorado does care about separated families

Author: Crisanta Duran - June 29, 2018 - Updated: June 29, 2018

Crisanta DuranColorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran addresses the Colorado House of Representatives for the Opening Day of the 2018 Colorado Legislature on Jan. 10. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Colorado Springs Gazette)

Last weekend, I traveled to the port of entry in Tornillo, Texas, where hundreds of children are detained in tents and kept away from their families. It’s been labelled a “tent city,” and it looks as bleak as it sounds. Temperatures reached into the triple digits that weekend.

The responsibility of this manufactured humanitarian crisis lies in the hands of President Trump and his administration. Families fleeing violence and seeking asylum, safety and security deserve protection and opportunity, not detention and forced separation.

Since the implementation of the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, almost 2,000 children have been forcibly separated from their parents at our southern border. These innocent children have been dispersed around our country, including Colorado. Many of them are far away from their parents, who have little or no idea where their children are being held.

The children detained in Tornillo wake up and go to sleep in a place they have never known and without the presence and love of their parents. Children do not belong in tents or cages.

The American Psychological Association and the American Public Health Association rightly condemned the president and his administration for their inhumane policy. “Decades of public health research has shown that family structure, stability and environment are key social determinants of a child’s and the communities’ health,” the APHA stated.

The executive order President Trump signed in June is just a piece of paper. It is still unclear to the public whether these parents know where their children are and if they have been allowed to contact them. And there is still no plan to reunite these families.

Eighteen state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Trump’s unconstitutional family separation policy because keeping children away from their parents against their will is illegal. Millions of dollars in grassroots donations have been raised to assist these families with legal matters.

From the beginning of his presidency, Trump has pushed messages of hate and discrimination over hope and tolerance. He has sent chilling effects throughout our immigrant communities through his and his administration’s actions and rhetoric. He has sought to isolate our country through his foreign policy and engulfed our country in trade wars with our allies, putting our economy at risk. It is not who we are as a country. The president’s hardline policies do not unite us; they only seek to divide us.

I believe that using this moment to achieve a political goal was the height of cruelty. But across our country Americans are fighting back. We cannot and should not allow this crisis and brutal actions of this administration to be normalized. I am proud of the activists, lawyers, doctors and faith leaders who are using their voice to raise awareness in this fight for justice.

Throughout my time as speaker and at the legislature, I have worked to ensure we have an inclusive Colorado. I passed a law making the in-state tuition rate at state colleges and universities in Colorado available to all students, regardless of immigration status, and I stood up for Colorado’s Dreamers from federal attacks. Not because it was politically convenient or advantageous but because it was the right thing to do.

While in Tornillo, I wore a jacket reading “Colo Does Care,” responding to the “I Really Don’t Care” jacket worn by First Lady Melania Trump when she visited a detention facility in Texas last week. I wanted to send the message that Coloradans do care and are alarmed by this crisis and want action taken to reunite the separated families.

We need our leaders in Washington to step up and fix our broken immigration system. Those in Congress who remain silent at this pivotal moment and fail to act are complicit in this cruelty.

This should not be a partisan issue. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or unaffiliated I hope that we can all agree that families belong together.

I am inspired by the efforts of Coloradans and Americans from all walks of life who are speaking out against this disgraceful family separation policy and offering assistance to those harmed by it.

This is about providing a voice to the voiceless in a moment of crisis. We must continue to demand a plan and hold this administration accountable until they reunite each child with their parents.

Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, is speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives.

Crisanta Duran

Crisanta Duran

Crisanta Duran, a Denver Democrat representing House District 5, is speaker of the Colorado House.