WEST PALM BEACH — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, will travel to Texas this week to visit detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border where nearly 2,000 children have reportedly been separated from their families as part of a crackdown on illegal entries into the U.S.
Frankel called the family separations part of a “racist” immigration policy by President Donald Trump.
“He wants to completely revamp the immigration program in this country, so basically he wants to keep immigrants out of this country. It’s not just racist, it’s economically ridiculous because our country’s been built by immigrants and we need fresh immigrants coming in for our workforce,” Frankel said after appearing at a news conference with other Democrats at City Hall to promote Medicaid expansion.
“I’m going to be going on Friday with a very large contingency of members of Congress. I know how I feel and I think a lot of Americans feel. We’re not going to be quiet about this until he changes policy,” said Frankel.
Trump has said Democrats can end the family separations by working with Republicans on immigration legislation.
“The Democrats are forcing the breakup of families at the Border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda. Any Immigration Bill MUST HAVE full funding for the Wall, end Catch & Release, Visa Lottery and Chain, and go to Merit Based Immigration. Go for it! WIN!” Trump tweeted on Friday.
“Democrats can fix their forced family breakup at the Border by working with Republicans on new legislation, for a change! This is why we need more Republicans elected in November. Democrats are good at only three things, High Taxes, High Crime and Obstruction. Sad!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
Frankel rejected the idea of the separation policy as a bargaining chip to get Democrats to support Trump immigration priorities.
“He in his own mind may have these little children who are being cruelly and inhumanely separated from their parents, he may think it’s a bargaining chip,” Frankel said.
“He wants to completely change the immigration program that’s going to severely limit families coming in together, for example, the number of immigrants coming into the country. It’s a complete dismantling of the system that needs to be improved, obviously, but not completely dismantled. So I don’t see any kind of exchange of the children for a wall. The president wants a lot more than that.”
The separations have increased since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy under which Department of Homeland Security officials are referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.
Based on a review of Department of Homeland Security records, the Associated Press reported Saturday that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults between April 19 through May 31. The figures did not include more specific breakdowns by age or whether the separations were for illegal entries, immigration violations or possible criminal conduct by the adult.
Frankel said Trump can stop the family separations “in like two seconds” with a phone call to Sessions or Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen.
“Some of us, it’s mostly Democrats but there are probably some Republicans, are trying to put enough public exposure of this cruelty to get the president to back off,” Frankel said.