Editor’s Note: Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, is the 109th Mayor of New York City. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.
There is a terrified 9-year-old boy in New York City right now. He and his mother fled Honduras to come to the United States’ southern border. They had hoped our country would protect them from gang violence. Instead, the Trump administration yanked them apart, detained the child’s mother and sent him to a federally-contracted facility in New York.
There are many like him in New York City today thanks to President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy with respect to people crossing our borders. By the administration’s own admission, they are taking children from their parents – and likely doing those innocent children lasting psychological harm – in an effort at deterrence that is as heartless as it is cynical.
In many cases, the victims of this cruelty are fleeing hopeless and dangerous situations in their countries. I might add, some are actually fleeing the very MS-13 gang the President himself repeatedly cites as a threat to the safety of Americans. Why else would mothers who are still cradling breastfeeding babies in their arms make thousand-mile journeys across Central America? They are convinced they have no choice.
These children must be reunited with their families immediately, and all of us must hold the perpetrators of this shocking policy accountable. Trump can point his finger wherever he wants, including, most recently, at Democratic lawmakers, but the facts are clear. Families are being ripped apart because of a policy his administration put in place. No one forced Trump’s hand. He doesn’t need Congress. He could stop this right now.
The President’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions even quoted the Bible to justify these horrors. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” he said.
The shallow, cowardly legalisms of the attorney general are drowned out by the anguished cries of mothers and children. It is their voices that ring in our ears, reminding us of the ancient wisdom of Scripture that is common to all faiths. “I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.”
The focus of my administration is on the children now being held within the five boroughs of New York City. We will connect them to every resource available, including legal and family services, to ease their trauma and provide support to reunite them with loved ones.
Although the little boy from Honduras now has a mother under lock and key, he also has an aunt living in this country. We are in contact with this aunt and are doing everything we can to assist their family. We cannot promise anything, except that we will not walk away from them.
We feel this as Americans who understand our singular history as a nation that has been a refuge for people from all over the world, as residents of the ultimate city of immigrants, as parents and as human beings. Those are our New York values. Taking a child from the arms of his mother is the act of an autocracy, not a democracy.