Clackamas County commissioners call border separations 'unconscionable'
Clackamas County Commissioner Sonya Fischer introduced a statement at the board's meeting Thursday that calls on the Trump administration to stop "the unconscionable treatment of children as criminals and immediately reunify" immigrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Fischer, who lives in Lake Oswego, said she felt compelled to bring the statement before the board after a recent visit with her grandchildren in California and a period of personal reflection about the relationship between the children and their mother.
"I really didn't know what (commissioners) could do," she said, "But Helen Keller had a quote once that I like to repeat: 'I am one, still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.'"
Commissioners did not vote on the statement, but agreed to have it read into the official record. The statement said:
"We, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council of Clackamas County, Clackamas County Administration and Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, stand in solidarity with the international community to denounce the inhumane and un-American treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers who seek refuge, freedom and fundamental human rights in the United States.
"We further denounce the immoral and unjust treatment of children and families through forced separation and incarceration.
"We believe families matter. In light of his executive order reversing the forced separation of children from their parents, we call upon President Donald J. Trump and his administration to cease and desist from the unconscionable treatment of children as criminals and immediately reunify affected families.
"We believe all men, women and children are created equal and deserve dignity."
Each of the commissioners made comments about the statement after it was read by Fischer. Chair Jim Bernard recalled his father's actions when Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II.
"I wasn't here when the Japanese were interned, but my father was … and when they left (for camps), a lot of people tried to take that land. A lot of citizens in Milwaukie didn't let that happen. I was very proud of the fact that my father and grandfather fought to make sure that when they came home, they got their land back."
Commissioner Ken Humberston pointed out that crossing the border is considered a misdemeanor and that being in the country without permission is only a civil offense. "To lock people up for a civil offense is not something we do in the law enforcement community," he said, adding that "the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that any person in the United States of America is entitled to the full due process of law."
"The fear mongering that I have seen in this country in the last year-and-a-half regarding people coming across the border, to me, is disgusting," Humberston said.
Commissioners Paul Savas and Martha Schrader both talked about the impact of separation on families. "Just think about the task of trying to reunite (the children) with their parents, when we don't even know where they come from and who they are," Savas said.
"This is trauma that can mold somebody's lifelong experiences, and I think we're going to have to be prepared for that," Schrader added. "This is not who we are as a country."