Texas should have sued the Trump administration to halt the zero-tolerance policy that led to children being separated from their immigrant parents at the Mexican border, Justin Nelson, the Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general, said Wednesday.
“This policy is being used to punish (immigrants), to send a message that America acts like this, and as a pawn for congressional leverage. This is wrong and this is immoral,” Nelson, an Austin civil lawyer, said during a news conference in Austin.
Nelson criticized Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton for backing President Donald Trump on the issue instead of standing up to federal officials.
“Mr. Paxton repeated the lies of the Trump administration that this is somehow simply mandated by the law and enforcing the law, and that’s not true,” he said. “That ignores the basic issue — this was not the policy of the United States until a couple of months ago.”
In a written statement, Paxton said Tuesday that separating families “should never be a desired outcome,” adding: “The issue is whether we’ll have a secure border or an open border. The Trump administration is following the law.”
Paxton also said Congress must make any changes to the immigration system to address family separations.
“Regardless, it is lawless policies like the illegal DACA program and ‘catch and release’ enforcement that have been fostering an open border policy and imposing massive human costs,” Paxton said.
Paxton filed suit May 1 to end DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration program that offers deportation protection to unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. That lawsuit is still in the early stages.
Nelson said that if he were attorney general, he would have used the “full force” of his office to keep families together by working with administration officials to mitigate the zero-tolerance policy and, failing that, suing the federal government to try to block family separations at the border.
Nelson said Trump’s executive order ending family separations, signed Wednesday, was progress, but added that he feared the president would continue using immigrant children as political pawns.
“We still need to make sure that we are reuniting families that have been separated by this awful policy,” he said.
Paxton campaign spokesman Matt Welch said Democratic leaders in Congress had blocked meaningful immigration reform, raising dangers for Texas residents.
“Their refusal to fulfill their constitutional role is a sad day for America. Congress needs to close the loopholes that are preventing common sense immigration enforcement,” Welch said.
Nelson, who also announced an effort to organize lawyers to help represent immigrants who had been separated from their children, left for McAllen shortly after the news conference to participate in Thursday’s interfaith rally at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center.
Article by Chuck Lindell • View on Austin American-Statesman