Activists: Executive order is a humanitarian Band-Aid, not a fix for immigration system

Posted at 11:05 PM, Jun 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-22 09:50:02-04

FORT WRIGHT, Ky. -- Although President Trump's Wednesday executive order will prevent new families arriving illegally in the United States from being separated, the immigration activists who gathered outside Sen. Mitch McConnell's office Thursday night said it's not a panacea for the many problems facing the U.S. immigration system.

Jonni Lynch, a legal assistant who has helped local immigrant families, said she isn't sure such a solution even exists, but she wants politicians on both sides to work together and search for it.

"This is a human thing," she said. "If you don't have a heart, if you don't feel the anguish, you are not seeing the pain that I have seen (in people) who have loved ones that have been swept up in raids and their concern for their well-being."

Prominent criticisms of the the Trump order include the fact that it stopped immigration officials from separating incoming children and parents but did not include provisions for reuniting the more than 2,000 families they had already split apart. 

Parents who hope to reclaim their children from the detention centers where they sleep in cages will have to wade through a complex web of bureaucracy to do so. Some have already been deported without their families.

Additionally, the order could be found to violate the 1997 Flores v. Reno case, which requires immigration officials "place each detained minor in the least restrictive setting appropriate" and to release immigrants under 18 "without unnecessary delay" if they are not going to be prosecuted. 

The Obama administration ran afoul of Flores in 2015, when a federal judge ruled its implementation of family detention centers was a violation, and the Trump administration cited it as legal precedent to explain its practice of sending adults and children to separate detention centers. Flores could be used again to challenge the executive order.

Finding a comprehensive solution -- one that keeps migrant families together, affords them due process and safeguards the border -- won't be easy, Newport resident Jeff Richardson acknowledged. However, he said, the rhetoric and severe tactics utilized by the Trump administration aren't it.

"President Trump isn't responsible for what is now a broken immigration system, but certainly he is responsible for his own rhetoric and the way he demonizes people who are from other places seeking a better life," he said.

Protesters urged others who are passionate about immigration reform to remain active and not to view the executive order as a cure-all. 

"It has to be a genuine effort from hose people involved in the decision-making and the general public," protester Leo Calderon said. "We all need to go and get involved."