PHOENIX – Leaders of the Arizona ACLU and a Tucson-based coalition fighting to change immigration policy fear President Trump’s executive order will not end family separation and encouraged people to remain vigilant on immigration issues.
Billy Peard, an attorney for the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday that wording of the order is so vague that the Department of Homeland Security could continue to detain parents under the administration’s “zero tolerance” for illegal immigration.
He said the order would “slightly” help families separated at the border but it will not completely end the practice. Trump, who has touted a tough immigration stance since he became president, in April instituted the policy that came under increasing fire from activists, pediatricians and Democratic and Republican lawmakers until he issued the executive order on Wednesday.
Peard pointed to a section in the order that said separation could occur if there’s a “concern” that a child’s welfare is at risk.
“Who is making that determination?” Peard said. “Would the Border Patrol have unilateral authority to determine whether there is a ‘concern’?”
Maurice Goldman, a Tucson immigration lawyer, agreed risk to a child “is a very subjective standard that opens itself up to anyone’s review.”
Tucson’s Free the Children Coalition said, given the uncertainty over child detentions, activists need to make a long-term commitment to improving immigration policy. That extends to doing things that may feel good but are ineffective.
“The main focus is to get these people out of detention centers,” said Marion Chubon, a spokesperson for the coalition.
Although some people are protesting at detention centers across the country, Chuban cautioned against it.
Southwest Key may be housing some children, according to azcentral, and a Tucson news station said people were protesting at the facility.
The coalition, on its Facebook page, says demonstrations where migrant children are being held may scare children or cause the children to be removed to other, less safe facilities.
Peard said protests at detention centers are misplaced.
“By protesting Southwest Key, I think it falsely gives the impression to the public that they are the ‘villain.’ They aren’t the one setting the policy here,” Peard said.
Instead of impromptu protesting, the coalition’s Facebook page says, people who feel passionately about the issue should attend training to become effective in civil disobedience, call lawmakers or donate to organizations that have expertise in immigration issues. Pro-immigration advocates are planning a national day of protest on June 30.
“We are in this for the long haul,” Chubon said.
Trump’s executive order only marks the beginning to a long legal battle, Goldman said.
“There is definitely the possibility of immigration reform on the horizon,” he said. “You have to figure out what you want to see as vital changes to a system that is in vital need of change.”