Summit County Council condemns separations of immigrant families
July 13, 2018
Summit County Councilors condemned President Trump's administration's policy of separating immigrant families at the United States-Mexico border on Wednesday, taking a bold stance against what they called a violation of human rights.
The County Council is adding its voice to those who have denounced aspects of the administration's zero-tolerance immigration policy, which aims to close loopholes within the immigration system while broadening the criteria for deporting undocumented immigrants.
Elected officials unanimously agreed to pass a resolution objecting to the forcible separation of children from their parents. Council member Chris Robinson was not at the meeting.
"I think single voices become powerful when they are part of collective voices, and we wanted to add our voices to the voice of other communities and jurisdictions across the country that are weighing in on the issue," County Council member Roger Armstrong said in an interview. "I hope we never have to make a resolution like this again. Not because we shouldn't, but because I hope it never becomes necessary again."
The resolution referred to the administration's immigration policy as "far reaching," claiming it threatens the "moral core of our nation." It states that 2,342 children of undocumented immigrants were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9, a move that Councilors say has inflicted injury to the children and ultimately harmed families.
The resolution further urges Congress to ensure the separations are outlawed and the children are immediately united with their parents. Trump signed an executive order on June 20 aimed at allowing the U.S. Justice Department to continue enforcing the zero-tolerance policy, while stopping the separation of families.
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"It just rips my heart out thinking about a mother or father having their child separated from them at such a young age and, in many cases, having no idea where they are," said County Council Chair Kim Carson on Wednesday. "We are encouraging our current administration to do everything in their power and to put the resources together to get these families reunited and to end the separations."
Carson said she presented the idea of drafting a resolution to the Council after she was asked by a constituent to bring something forward. She said the country needs immigration reform, adding, "We do have families in our community who are terrified of what is happening and it does affect us on a local basis."
Hispanics make up nearly 11.5 percent of the county's population, with that number expected to grow to 12.5 percent by 2022. Elected leaders have previously condemned policies that led to roundups of undocumented immigrants across the country, including some in Park City.
The zero-tolerance immigration policy also directs officials to detain border crossers who claim to be seeking asylum. County Council member Glenn Wright said on Wednesday the country has accepted refugees under similar circumstances for a majority of his life. He called the current attitude toward immigration a disgrace.
"We have a responsibility and we should not be turning them away," he said. "This is essentially a political act by the leadership of this country. If we can't accept people in distress, we should be ashamed of ourselves."
While the resolution was prompted by a constituent, the County Council did receive some pushback about taking action on such a polarizing issue.
Armstrong said he received an email and a phone call from people urging the Council to refrain from commenting on non-local issues. He said the caller claimed he had lost jobs recently to undocumented workers and asserted that the children of undocumented immigrants are overrunning the schools in the county.
The Council's objections to the immigration policy does not detract from their focus on local issues, Armstrong said. However, he added, there are national issues that the Council occasionally feels strongly about and feels that "we should weigh in with a collective voice and, on this particular issue, I think we all believe that silence is unacceptable."
Armstrong acknowledged the potential divide the Council's stance could create among constituents who support the administration's views on immigration. But, he noted, the Council did not take a broader position about immigration, instead focusing on this particular issue involving the separation of children and families.
Armstrong said everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and there will be times when those beliefs do not align with the Council's. He referenced raising taxes, changing the development code and the Council's stance on public lands as examples of situations when many people did not support the legislative action they took. However, he emphasized the resolution approved on Wednesday is not a legislative act.
"It was a statement by the Council," he said. "The beautiful part of our system is those who disagree with our position have the ability through social media, emails to Council and through raising their own voice with our elected representatives to Congress to take alternative positions. We don't shut those down by taking a position ourselves. But, that doesn't mean that the Council should be silent on the issues that we consider important."