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Hickenlooper calls for investigation into Trump immigration policy

Author: Joey Bunch - July 3, 2018 - Updated: July 3, 2018

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HickenlooperGov. John Hickenlooper, left, walks the halls of Palmer High School with former Teacher of the Year Sean Wybrant in April while visiting the Colorado Springs high school and Wybrant’s classroom. (Photo by Christian Murdock/The Colorado Springs Gazette)

Though Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper downplays his national political ambitions, he once again dipped into the national political spotlight Tuesday by calling for an investigation into family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hickenlooper sent a letter to the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary committees to look into the policy.

The aim of the letter, besides public awareness (also known as politics), is moot, as long as the committees are led by Republicans — Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, both conditional supporters of the Trump immigration measures.

Hickenlooper’s office alerted the press to the letter that also was endorsed by the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Psychiatric Society, the Colorado chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Colorado Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Society, the Colorado Psychological Association, the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the National Foundation to end Child Abuse and Neglect, and the Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Hickenlooper is one of a handful of Democrats being sized up to take on Trump in 2020. Hickenlooper is term-limited and will be out of office in January. He has told Colorado Politics and other reporters his total focus is serving out his remaining days. But in Aspen two weeks ago, Hickenlooper said he would “sort through” a decision this summer.

The full letter states:

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

We remain extremely concerned about the welfare of children who have been separated from their parents upon crossing the U.S. border. We ask you and your congressional colleagues to take immediate steps to investigate the administration’s policies of separation and co-incarceration of these children and their parents. Additionally, we believe it critical to develop clear guidelines that prevent any abuse or trauma for children detained by immigration officials.

As you are aware, the Administration’s “zero tolerance policy” required border officials to separate children from their parents, even when these families were seeking protection from dangerous persecution in their home countries. U.S. immigration law allows those seeking asylum to present themselves to border patrol agents and have their case heard by a judge.

News reports have indicated that the thousands of children under the age of 12 are being held in “tender age” detention centers. Many are babies and toddlers who need special care and for whom the forcible separation from their families can be particularly traumatic. Visitors to these detention centers describe babies and children crying uncontrollably and suffering from panic attacks. Many of them do not speak english or speak at all, making it difficult for their caretakers to calm these children.

The negative consequences of forcible separation of children from their parents are well
documented. According to medical professionals, parental separation is considered a toxic stressor, and the effects of separation can have lasting effects into adulthood even after children have been reunited with their parents. Children who are separated often experience mental health issues, poor social functioning, insecure attachment, disrupted stress reactivity, and even death. Many child health and development experts have identified the practice of separation as causing trauma and stress child abuse.

We urge Congress to investigate the child separation policy as well as the current policy of detaining
children with their parents, to ensure that all federal laws were followed and to ensure children are not subject to abuse while detained by immigration officials. Further, we ask that congress require the administration to immediately reunite families separated under this policy and provide these families with every available resource to help avoid the long term effects of this trauma and abuse. We also urge your support of “Keep Families Together Act” (S.3036) to bring a clear end to the practices of family separation.

The United States is better than this. In time, we can work to heal the wounds of these children while
ensuring that no child will suffer in this way at the hands of the U.S. government.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.