City Council member Greg Casar is one of several Austin city leaders who accepted an invitation from the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) to Tornillo, Texas to visit a immigrant shelter there.
Casar's trip comes after Austin City Council members unanimously approved a pair of "Freedom City" resolutions, which makes Austin the first "Freedom City" in the state of Texas. The resolutions pinpointed racial disparities in Austin police arrests and how officers interact with undocumented immigrants. Advocates and support groups of the Freedom City Policy said that its passing is a step toward making the city more inclusive.
Greg Casar posted this statement to his Facebook page on Tuesday before his departure to Tornillo:
"I’ve poured my emotional energy the last two weeks into passing Austin’s Freedom City policies to try to reduce harm to poor families, immigrant families, and families of color, and to try to keep families together here in Austin. Many local activists did incredible amounts of work to earn us last week’s unanimous vote. But, I’m sure like many of you, I cannot stop thinking about the children being mercilessly separated from their parents and incarcerated under Trump's new family separation policies.
I listened to all 7 minutes of the recently released tape of children weeping after being ripped from their families' arms. Our federal administration and contractors are inflicting unconscionable suffering on these children. You can hear it on this tape. It's important that we listen to it, in full. (available here: https://www.propublica.org/…/children-separated-from-parent…)
Like so many people, I've been unsure of what we can do. I've been struggling to accept this reality, and to understand those who defend its cruelty. The best advice I can offer, for now, is that even though it's easy to become numbed to things like this, we can't be. It's so important that we don't get worn down by the atrocities the Trump administration is committing. We must choose to keep fighting.
This is one of those moments in our history where people will one day ask, “what were you doing when the Trump administration started incarcerating children as part of their political program?” I hope each of us can say we were actively fighting, resisting, and doing everything we could to stop it—and we were working day and night to change those things in our political culture that made this happen.
During the discussion on the Freedom City policies, I mentioned a quote from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. He said, "few are guilty, but all are responsible." Incarcerating children is violence. We cannot allow the Trump administration and those who are complicit with them to hold children hostage to scare people away from seeking asylum in our county.
I am doing the best thing I know to do right now - I'm going to the tent city for incarcerated children in Tornillo. I drive out tomorrow. On Thursday, I am going to demand to speak with those children and hear from them, and I hope to deliver to them a message of love and solidarity.
I'll be joining Mayor Adler, my Council colleagues, and the US Conference of Mayors in Tornillo because we want to welcome asylum seekers into our cities-- not incarcerate them. We need these tent cities and all immigrant prisons to be shut down immediately. We need these families reunited outside of prisons. We cannot accept the continued separation of family members by Trump's inhumane "zero-tolerance" policy, and we cannot let these atrocities to go on. We cannot forget about these horrors after a news cycle or two. We will continue to hold onto the ideals of who we wish to be as a nation, and we must continue to march the distance between our current reality and those ideals.
Casar started his drive to Tornillo Wednesday. He tweeted that he would publish a Facebook Live detailing his trip and why he was traveling to see the shelter.
I'm driving to El Paso, join me on Facebook Live at 12pm CST. I'll give you an update on the road about why I'm driving to Tornillo and what I'll be asking federal officials at the tent city. #KeepFamiliesTogether #atxcouncil pic.twitter.com/XhrneZ1DIg— Gregorio Casar (@GregCasar) June 20, 2018
In his Facebook Live, Casar said he, along with mayors and city leaders from across the country, were traveling to the shelter to protest President Trump's "zero tolerance" policies.
"In the morning, we will be going to the tent city that's been set up by federal authorities outside of Tornillo, where there are children who have been separated from their families and who are suffering in this man-made crisis for no good reason except for one of Trump's political ploys," Casar said.
Casar said he would be joining Austin Mayor Steve Adler and his colleagues on the city council to deliver a message of solidarity to the children and families at the immigrant shelter.
"[We want] to let them know that they're welcome in our cities. To send a message to immigrants across the country, to refugees, and to these children that we want them in our cities, that they make our cities stronger," Casar said in the Facebook Live. "They make our cities better. And that we want them to be safe and that we know their lives would be better if they weren't incarcerated. It's an active resistance against the Trump administration's new zero tolerance policy."
Casar called it a "deliberate change in policy" that city leaders are fighting.
"There have been a lot of lies put out on the airwaves that somehow this is the same thing that other administrations have done in the past," Casar said.
KVUE sister station KHOU 11 News in Houston set out to Verify the legitimacy of claims that Obama's administration separated just as many families and the Trump administration. According to Gordon Quan, a prominent Houston lawyer KHOU interviewed, many of the children detained during the Obama administration arrived at the border alone.
The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” approach meant all adults caught crossing the border illegally were sent for prosecution and since kids can’t stay in adult jails were separated, KHOU reported.
Homeland Security says about 2,000 kids have been separated from parents since the policy was announced in April.
"While I and others have been protesting and fighting against family separation and deportation for many years through multiple presidential administrations, "we know that what is happening now -- where families are being unnecessarily ripped apart by federal authorities and where children are being taken from their loving parent's arms and put in places like this tent city."
WATCH CASAR'S FACEBOOK LIVE HERE:
Casar encouraged people to speak up on social media, write letters, and boycott politicians who are responsible for the zero tolerance policies.