What I Saw in Tornillo, Texas

This past week, I joined more than 20 mayors in Tornillo, Texas, at the site of a federal detention facility for immigrants, many of whom have traveled to our country fleeing violence and seeking asylum. Hundreds of children, soon to be thousands, are now living in this small town at this makeshift site in the middle of the desert, where temperatures are well past 100 degrees every day.

My fellow mayors came from across the country, including New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles, to demonstrate our united opposition to the current Administration’s racist family separation policies. These policies have separated thousands of children from their parents, leaving families traumatized, detained, and without a way of finding each other again.

In Tornillo, I tried to gain access to the detention center. I was turned away by both administration officials as well as border agents. I asked about the children who were being kept there, wanting to know if there were any child care professionals, caretakers, or doctors inside those walls. The guards refused to offer any information. No media has been able to see what conditions the immigrant children in Tornillo are staying in. Based on the Trump Administration’s blatant disregard for the children’s humanity, I fear for the physical and emotional safety of all of them, and especially our very youngest children.

Our cities and states are seeing firsthand the horrific impacts of the plan: a four-month-old baby put on a bus and sent into a federal facility; an eight-month-old torn from his parents; children marched in the middle of the night to an unknown destination; a teenager who recently walked away from a federal facility and is missing still. The Pacific Northwest is no exception: we know that nine children are being detained in Washington State, and one mother at SeaTac hasn’t seen or heard from her son since mid-May.

Until these children are returned safely to their parents, we must stand strong against the presidential Administration’s policies. The President’s Executive Order changes nothing. We must stand strong until the actions change, until those children are reunited with every parent, until the policy at the border changes, and until we fix our broken immigration system.

We have seen this story of racist policies and their tragic consequences for people of color in America, including right here in Seattle: from the separation of families during slavery to the internment of Japanese residents to the forced placement of Native American children in white boarding schools for “re-education.” We must not allow the President to take us back in time, to undo the progress we have made, and to once again violate our communities’ highest ideals and shared values.

My colleagues here in the City of Seattle, along with my counterparts all over this nation, will continue to fight this policy, push for the reunion of these families, and protect our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Seattle is a welcoming City, and I know that we have incredible partners in this city and throughout our region who have fought and will keep fighting alongside us. Thank you to all of you who have already stood up for these separated families, and to all who will continue to make their voices heard.

–Jenny