Standing with mayors from across the country in Texas Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio decried the “inhumane” policy that led to the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents and said an executive order signed by President Donald Trump “has not solved the problem.”
“Zero tolerance still exists. That’s breaking an American tradition of respecting people fleeing oppression,” he said at a news conference before attempting to tour the Tornillo Migrant Children’s Facility, where some of the children are being held.
“The families are not reunified,” de Blasio said. “We don’t know when they’ll be.”
Later Thursday, Trump said he was directing federal agencies to begin reuniting children and parents who had been separated, but no specific timeline was announced.
Facing an outcry, Trump had signed an executive order Wednesday to stop the separations and detain families together. The order moves parents with children to the front of the line for immigration proceedings, but it does not end a 10-week-old “zero tolerance” policy that calls for prosecuting immigrants crossing the border without legal permission.
The Trump administration has said the policy is intended to deter illegal immigration.
De Blasio visited an East Harlem shelter Wednesday where hundreds of children had been brought after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. He said he had only learned about their arrivals that day, despite them having arrived months before.
In Texas, de Blasio repeated the story of 9-year-old Eddie, a Honduran boy who he has said was taken from his mom and put on a bus from Texas to New York City.
“Think of how broken that is, and our government didn’t even tell us it was happening,” he said.
De Blasio later said that he would make sure the children housed in the city have legal support and that “mental health services and the physical health services are there for them.”
“So we’re going to do everything we can to help them and to push for their reunification with their parents immediately,” he said.
De Blasio said the gathering in Texas, organized by the United States Conference of Mayors, was a symbol of hope.
“The hope is that people are demanding a change and it cannot be ignored,” he said. “And if it won’t happen in Washington, we will make it happen.”
The mayors planned to tour the Tornillo facility, but they were denied entry.
“The fact is this is our federal government denying access, not allowing information, and it’s not American, it’s crazy,” de Blasio said.