EL PASO, Texas — Mayors of major U.S. cities who gathered Thursday at a holding facility for immigrant children at Texas’ border with Mexico said President Trump has failed to address a humanitarian crisis of his own making with an executive order to halt the separation of minors as families are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally.
Seattle Mayor and former U.S. attorney Jenny Durkan said immigrant shelters have been overwhelmed by criminal prosecutions ordered by the Trump administration.
“It is unclear whether the children being separated from their families are being treated as unaccompanied minors,” Durkan said. “They do not know where these children’s’ parents are. This is a humanitarian crisis.”
She joined about 20 mayors from cities across the country in calling for the immediate reunification of immigrant children with their families.
Speaking outside a cluster of fenced-off tents nestled along the Rio Grande, they said Trump’s order raises as many new questions as it answers.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said separated immigrant children still don’t know when they will see their parents again.
The group was denied immediate access to a holding facility by the Department of Health and Human Services, said Steve Benjamin, mayor of Columbia, South Carolina.
Amid worldwide outrage, Trump on Wednesday reversed a policy that has already separated more than 2,300 children from their parents.
In Washington D.C., the House of Representative prepared to vote Thursday on a Republican immigration bill. Trump suggested that any measure that is approved by the House would be doomed in the Senate anyway.
In Texas, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described uncertainty about access to legal representation for immigrant families and maximum holding periods for those accused of illegally crossing the border.
“We need legislation that will resolve this,” said Garcetti. “And that’s just the first step — then you need to live up to your word on Dreamers.”
One compromise bill before Congress would create a path way to citizenship for the young immigrants known as Dreamers, who have been living in the U.S. illegally since childhood.
Tim Keller, the mayor of Albuquerque — New Mexico’s largest city — said the nation has never “stooped so low.”
“We’re essentially hiding behind the system and gridlock and using it as an excuse to dehumanize people and literally tear apart parents and children,” he said.
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Mayor Alan Webber said the president’s approach has traumatized children and remains a humanitarian threat.
“The fact that, at least for the moment, Trump has gotten a little less inhumane hardly solves the problem,” Webber said.
Associated Press writer Morgan Lee in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.