Austin Mayor Steve Adler on family separation at the border: ‘Children don’t belong in cages’


Mayor Steve Adler joined several council colleagues and mayors from across the country outside a tent shelter in Tornillo, Texas Thursday to advocate for the reunification of families separated while attempting to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Under a recent zero-tolerance policy from the Trump Administration, parents and children attempting to illegally cross the border were separated. A reported 2,300 children were placed in shelters by federal customs and border patrol agents while their parents were processed and charged with illegal entering. Amid public outcry, United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to immediately end the deterrent policy of separating families enacted in May 2018.

Adler and other council members traveled with a delegation from the United States Conference of Mayors Thursday to Tornillo, where many children are being sheltered in a tent city. In a press conference held just outside the gates of the shelter, the mayors spoke against the policy, the lack of transparency and advocated for action from the federal government.

“Using children in order to deter, or dissuade folks from coming to our border and seeking asylum is unjust, it is wrong, it is immoral and it is un-American,” Adler said. “Children don’t belong in cages…with or without their parents. The reason we are here today [is about]the children.”

Adler said the mayoral delegation requested access into the tent city, but was told the request would take two weeks to process. Adler said the mayors traveled to Tornillo to point out the lack of transparency and hoped to put eyes on the children and report back to their communities.

The Trump Administration’s change of policy Wednesday was the result of many individuals coming together to express outrage toward injustice, Adler said.

Several other mayors from large U.S. cities spoke Thursday against the recent events at the border. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio said it was “painful” to find out Wednesday that 239 of the immigrant children were bused up to a shelter in East Harlem, New York. He said the news came as a shock and there was no prior communication from the federal government.

Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin called the family separation situation the country’s greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan called it a watershed moment for the country.

“There are moments in time of the arc and history of a nation that tests that nation’s resolve, its consciences, and it’s heart,” Durkan said. “How our nation reacts today will define who we are as a country. We stand here as mayors…to say we are better than this as a country. We are so much better than and the promise of America is better than this.”

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  1. Something about tax payer dollars paying for 7+ city council members to travel to El Paso to “protest” illegal immigration policy just doesn’t sit well with me.

    “Children don’t belong in cages…with or without their parents. The reason we are here today [is about]the children.”

    Detention centers are far from cages and that is just inflammatory language, but what does he propose gets done, just release them into the US illegally or turn them back to just catch them the next day. Crime should have some punishment, which obviously the mayor doesn’t believe in. This has been happening since a 2015 court ruling, why the outrage just now and why was the ruling good up until the last few weeks?

Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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