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Texas Lawmakers Join In Bipartisan Opposition To Trump Administration's Family Separation Policy

Carlos Morales/Marfa Public Radio
A view of the Tornillo Port of Entry on the border with Mexico, where a temporary shelter for migrant children has been set up in recent days.

Texas politicians have called on the Trump administration to end its policy of separating immigrant families crossing the border illegally, and are asking the state to stop assisting immigration authorities along the border until the policy ends. 

On Monday, State Rep. Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) sent a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asking him to cancel the deployment of National Guard troops to the border and halt “certain border security practices” in light of the family separation policy. 

"To me, you shouldn't have to legislate that you shouldn't take kids from their parents." – U.S. Rep. Will Hurd

Blanco represents the area where a temporary tent city shelter is being built at the Tornillo Port of Entry on the U.S.-Mexico border. In the letter to Abbott, he wrote “the deployment of state resources and our state guard to our border directly and indirectly result in the detection and apprehension of some of these asylum seeking migrant families.”

“Texas should not be a condoning and willing partner in this practice of separating families,” Blanco continued.

On Tuesday, outgoing state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) wrote to Abbott to ask that "no Texas tax dollars be utilized in the advancement of this morally repugnant practice of separating children from their parents." He also requested that the state provide facilities that would allow families to be held together as they await court proceedings, offering to raise private funds to do so.

"Governor, if we remain silent in the face of this suffering, we are by default, acquiescing to the harm that is being done to these children," wrote Villalba.

Outgoing Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday, calling for an end to the policy.

"In light of the potential harm being inflicted on these children and the ambiguity of their status after they're removed from these facilities, I ask that you please immediately rescind directives that have resulted in the increase in separations of children from their migrant parents," Straus wrote.

Previously, Straus called the policy “immoral” in a tweet Sunday night.

Trump has repeatedly defended the policy, arguing his administration is merely enforcing U.S. immigration law. 

In an interview with NPR yesterday, Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, whose district encompasses much of West Texas and borders the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Cohuila, said the Trump administration's use of the policy was "insane" and bristled at the administration's calls for congressional action on the policy.

"To me, you shouldn't have to legislate that you shouldn't take kids from their parents," Hurd said. "We should know that as part of our value system, and this is something that needs to end."

So far, at least 2,000 migrant children have been separated from their parents, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Texas has sent hundreds of National Guard troops to assist the Border Patrol. They are mostly acting in a support role — not actively arresting people who cross the border illegally. Abbott mobilized those troops in in April in response to a call from President Trump. 

"Texas should not be a condoning and willing partner in this practice of separating families." — State Rep. Cesar Blanco

On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, both said they were canceling their deployments to the border to protest the administration’s family-separation policy.

So far, Abbott has said little about the policy, but in an interview with NBC 5 in Dallas last week he said the situation was "horrible" and that it "rips everyone’s hearts apart."

"Listen," he added, "if the Democrats would agree with [Trump] right now, they could pass a law today that would end the ripping apart of these families and make the border secure." 

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has expressed a similar opinion.

Both Abbott and Patrick have not responded to requests for comment from KUT.

The Trump administration continued to defend the policy Monday. A day after falsely claiming that separating families was not a policy, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen argued that the administration was following the law, challenging Congress to change it. Members of the administration, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, have said the policy of separating children from their parents would serve as a deterrent to others looking to enter the U.S. illegally.

Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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