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Phoenix activists condemn policy of splitting kids, parents at border

Rev. Ken Heintzelman speaks outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix on July 15, 2018. (KTAR Photo/Griselda Zetino)

PHOENIX — A Valley pastor is denouncing the Trump administration’s policy of separating families caught trying to cross the border.

“We must stand up and say that these actions affecting families are wrong,” said Ken Heintzelman, a pastor at Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix.

He spoke Friday at a press conference in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. He described taking migrant children away from their parents as “cruel actions” and as “an attack on families.”

“This attack on families is an attack on who we are as human beings, as a community,” he said.

Other speakers noted many of the families being separated are fleeing dangerous conditions in Central America and are seeking asylum in the United States.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute any adult who enters the country illegally. Any child who is with the parent is put into the custody of the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, since children cannot be held in an adult facility.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families at the U.S. border from April 19 through May 31, according to Department of Homeland Security figures.

The White House has defended the policy, saying it is enforcing the law by separating families at the border. On Friday, President Donald Trump said he blamed Democrats for the policy.

“I hate the children being taken away,” Trump said. “The Democrats have to change their law. That’s their law.”

State Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, challenged Trump’s argument that Democrats are to blame. He said the Trump administration enacted the policy and “can take action to stop this immediately.”

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