EL PASO, Texas (KXAN) — City leaders traveled hundreds of miles but received little answers from federal officials housing children separated from their parents when they crossed the border.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and council members Alison Alter, Greg Casar, Delia Garza, Ann Kitchen, Leslie Pool, Pio Renteria and Kathie Tovo went to the town of Tornillo Thursday morning, the site of the infamous “tent city” outside of El Paso.
They traveled at their own expense with the United States Conference of Mayors, but were turned away at the gate.
While they weren’t allowed to see the children, unbeknownst to them, federal officials were bringing separated children — now refugees — to their cities without their knowledge. The city leaders showed their frustration.
Mayor Bill DeBlasio woke up Thursday morning to find out 239 refugee children had been moved to New York overnight.
“[They] had been sent 2,000 miles away and they don’t know when they’re going to see their parents again,” he told a large group of the press that traveled to Tornillo for the event.
The Conference of Mayors put in an official request to see the tent city but officials told them it would take two weeks to get inside. Many just went up to the front gate themselves and started asking questions.
Casar drove to Tornillo and was front and center at the gate asking federal officers if he could speak with someone from the facility. He was denied.
The council member wanted to know why other elected officials had been allowed to see the children — including a congressman and a state representative — but these city officials were not.
“This is an Austin issue. These kids before this zero-tolerance policy might be in places like Austin. They might be in districts like District 4. They’re our kids. They would be my constituents,” said Casar.
A lot of what happened Thursday was political theater, but Austin City Council members were the only council members to join their mayor here in West Texas.
This is an Austin issue.
That’s because Austin and Travis County spend a lot of money enforcing immigration laws and providing services to people who came to the United States illegally.
Health experts from Texas medical associations to national mental health groups worry the Trump administration’s policy of family separation will cause long-term mental damage.
One-hundred and thirty-eight children have already been placed in Travis County homes. The mental damage of this ordeal will be costly on the backend — both in health services and in property tax-funded school districts.
“We don’t ask questions about whether someone is documented or not. These children of undocumented immigrants are in our school system, we serve them just like every other child,” said Council Member Alter.