NHCSL Tour Picture rPHOENIX, AZ – Assistant Majority Leader Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago) joined Congressman Rubén Gallego (AZ-07) and Members of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) who gathered in Phoenix to call attention to the latest facts on the ground related to family separation resulting from the Trump Administration’s so-called “zero tolerance policy” at the southern border. More than 30 Latino state lawmakers from across the country, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico came to Arizona for NHCSL’s bi-annual Executive Committee meeting earlier this month.

“I am proud to join my colleagues from across the nation in renewing our call for immediate family reunification and an end to the senseless ‘zero tolerance’ policy that has separated innocent children from their families. The family separation crisis is not over and after seeing conditions on the ground, I will go back to my state capitol and redouble efforts so that our state government ensures it is doing all it can to guarantee the safety of the children who are being detained in these facilities,” Martinez said.

During their stay in Phoenix, the legislators visited the Southwest Key child detention center and held meetings with local stakeholders working on family reunification efforts. Gallego and NHCSL members also highlighted proposed actions that need to be taken to guarantee family reunification happens in the most expedited and appropriate manner while also securing the safety of the children and families involved.

Martinez added that: “Family separation is not just a federal issue. These children are housed in facilities certified by our states and local governments and we have an oversight duty to perform. There are many actions we can take at the state and local levels to address this situation, including: providing funding so that these children have access to legal services, making sure detention facilities comply with state and local standards, and providing English Language Learners (ELL) educational services.”

Members of NHCSL’s Executive Committee also held a discussion with the Consul General of Gutaemala in Phoenix, Ambassador Oscar Padilla, and the Consul of Mexico in Phoenix, Ambassador Claudia Franco, who are working tirelessly to address the myriad of challenges these separated children face. During the session, consular officials provided key details of their interactions with the children, detention centers, the government and the community at large.

“I will not rest until our state and local governments do all we can to ensure the safety and security of innocent children whose lives have been upended and are in limbo. Some of the facilities apparently are not in bad conditions. However, even if these children were staying at a Five Star hotel, the point is that they should not have ever been separated from their parents and should not be detained as if they were criminals. This country is supposed to stand for liberty, hope and human rights. Together with my NHCSL colleagues from both sides of the aisle, we will continue to speak out and act so that this situation is resolved and never happens again in our nation,” Martinez said.

Legislators also met yesterday with advocates who are providing critical support services to the kids who are held in these detention facilities. Representatives from the ACLU of Arizona, the Florence Project, the Young Center and Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest shared their experiences in attempting to fill the gaps in the chaos that has been wrought by the cruel family separation policy enacted by the Trump Administration.

Category: News Releases

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