The Trump Administration's policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents sparked a wave of planned protests and rebukes by U.S. lawmakers, including those on the Central Coast.
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) told New Times that his office was flooded with more than 2,000 phone call, emails, and other communications expressing outrage and concern over the policy.
"There is a significant bipartisan outcry saying that this is not representative of our American values," Carbajal told New Times. "This is not who we are. We are going backwards on civil rights and human rights."
In May U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the policy was part of the government's new "zero tolerance" border policy. Under that policy, adults entering the country illegally were charged with a crime and referred to a federal court, while their children were sent to the Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The Department of Homeland Security reported that as many as 2,000 children were separated from their parents at the U.S. border. Photos from the government's child detention centers showed those children sleeping on mats in chain-link enclosures, and audio from of one of the detention centers released by the nonprofit ProPublica featured children crying for their parents.
"It's appalling," said Carbajal, who immigrated to America from Mexico with his own parents when he was a child. "This is not the America we strive to be."
On June 19, Carbajal and 190 other House Democrats introduced the Keep Families Together Act. The proposed legislation, introduced as a companion to a similar bill in the Senate, would prohibit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from separating parents from their children except in "extraordinary" circumstances. Carbajal said he hoped that it would become a bipartisan effort.
Trump, Sessions, and DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen all previously defended the policy, claiming that it was the result of legal loopholes in the country immigration laws that could only be addressed by Congress. Carbjal, like other lawmakers pushed back on those assertions, stating that the president could end the child separation policy with "one phone call."
On June 20, President Trump reversed the policy by signing an executive order.
"We've want to keep families together; it's very important," he said at a press conference shortly before singing the order.
Carbajal said there are questions about the how the policy was carried out and the treatment of children already separated from their parents.
"There are still parts of this bill that are germane and important," he said.
According to Women's March SLO, multiple protests scheduled across SLO County will continue as planned, despite Trump's reversal of policy. Δ