By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta’s Democratic mayor on Wednesday called the forced separation of migrant families at the country’s Southern border “despicable” and said the city won’t accept any new immigration detainees until she’s certain the separations have stopped.
The city has long had an agreement to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees in the city jail. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order Wednesday declaring the jail won’t take any more until she gets assurances from President Donald Trump’s administration that the policy has been rescinded and the separations have ceased.
In this Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, file photo, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks at a news conference in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
“I, like many others, have been horrified watching the impact of President Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy on children and families,” Bottoms said in a news release. The mayor added in the order that she “will not allow the City of Atlanta to risk being complicit in separating families as a result of this policy.”
An ICE spokesman declined to comment on the mayor’s decision.
Photos of children held in cages at border facilities have dominated the news in recent days, and audio recordings captured young children crying for their parents. The images and recordings have provoked a national uproar, sparking questions of morality.
“On behalf of the people of Atlanta, I am calling upon the Trump Administration and Congress to enact humane and comprehensive measures that address our broken immigration system,” Bottoms said in the release.
A recent “zero tolerance” policy from the Trump administration calls for all unlawful border crossings to be referred for prosecution. That moves adults to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service and sends many children to facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order to keep families together, but he said the “zero tolerance” policy will continue.
Atlanta has long had a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Service to house adult ICE detainees in the city jail. Bottoms said that may seem contrary to her personal stance, but she said the agreement keeps some immigration detainees from being sent to other privately run facilities in the state, which she called “substandard.”