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Hickenlooper: Separating immigrant families is ‘immoral and un-American’

Author: Joey Bunch - June 18, 2018 - Updated: June 19, 2018

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In this photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a U.S. Border Patrol agent watches as people who’ve been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, stand in line at a facility in McAllen, Texas, on June 17. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has called out the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border as part of a “zero-tolerance” policy enacted in April by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat viewed as a potential challenger to President Donald Trump in 2020, called the policy “immoral and un-American” Monday in a joint statement with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

“Immigration enforcement is a necessary function of our federal government, but it is beyond comprehension that the Trump administration is using these families as pawns to deter immigration,” he said. “We urge the administration to stop this cruel practice. If the White House won’t act, Congress should. No political end is worth destroying families and traumatizing children.”

Later in the morning he signed an executive order declaring, “No state agency may deprive any person of services or benefits to which he or she is legally entitled because of a person’s immigration status, except as required by state or federal law.”

The order added: “No state agency may use any state resources, including but not limited to moneys, equipment, or personnel, for the purpose of separating any child from his or her parent or legal guardian on the sole ground that such parent or legal guardian is present in the United States in violation of federal immigration laws.”

The full executive order can be read by clicking here.

The governor also sent a letter stating his position to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, as well as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. He CC’ed all seven of Colorado’s members of Congress.

“We urge Congress to quickly consider and pass a clean version of the Keep Families Together Act,” the letter says. “The bill … would allow the government to separate children from their parents only when there is suspected abuse or trafficking.”

Democrats were quick to pounce on the administration’s policy on separating families, an issue that seems to be resonating across party lines. Some Republicans and faith leaders nationally have spoken out against the policy of separating families and detaining children.

The issue could play a role in the November midterm elections. The GOP already had pushed a narrative on sanctuary cities — citing Denver, Boulder and Aurora in Colorado — to mobilize its base, a message all four GOP candidates for governor have embraced.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican from Aurora, said he’s joining the Democrat-led effort to “put a stop to this human rights disaster at the border.”

He said he would be honored to introduce a bill to do that.

“I’m open to all reasonable options,” Coffman said in a statement. “Tearing children from the arms of parents and then isolating them alone is antithetical to the America I grew up in, and to the America that I have many times fought to defend. This isn’t who we are. My colleagues should mark their words and this moment — history won’t remember well those who support the continuation of this policy.”

Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran of Denver, the state’s first Latina House leader, issued a statement Monday to say the actions of the Trump administration concerning immigrant children should not normalized.

“I am disgusted by the Trump administration’s policy of tearing children from their parents who are fleeing violence and seeking asylum,” she stated. “It needs to stop immediately. Using this to achieve a political goal is the height of cruelty. Those in Congress who remain silent in this pivotal moment and fail to act are complicit in this cruelty and history will reflect that.”

ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s leading liberal advocacy organization, also got in its punches against the policy Monday, characterizing it as a humanitarian crisis.

“We can have a secure border without taking malicious actions against families to attempt to gain political leverage.,” executive director Ian Silverii said in a statement.  “What is being done on our southern border in the name of all Americans runs counter to the most basic American values. Not since our nation ordered the displacement and internment of Japanese-Americans into camps during World War II have we witnessed such a gross violation of human rights on American soil as the Trump administration’s new policy of separating parents from their children at the border.”

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver announced Monday that she’ll be one of 20 female members of Congress who will visit a detention facility in McAllen, Texas, this week.

“I’ve long protested this heartless, shameful policy and am supporting legislation to reverse it,” DeGette said in a statement. “And using the tools of congressional oversight, I‘ve raised the matter in hearings, letters to the administration and via other means. Now I’ll have a first-hand view in order to do more to bring its reality home. A number of leading female members of Congress will visit the scene of this crime against humanity; we will bear witness and bring to light the ways in which the Trump Administration is harming vulnerable families, damaging our nation’s stature and seeking to excuse these outrages in the name of national security.”

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.