Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has emerged as the leading Black voice in the resistance against President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has torn migrant children away from their families seeking asylum at the U.S. border.
Other African-American leaders have also stepped to stop the inhumane practice, but Bottoms has taken things a few steps further by turning her rhetoric into direct action.
Trump, in the face of backlash over his policy of separating children from their parents, appeared to be sending mixed signals to confuse his opponents. He abruptly ordered immigration officials on Wednesday to stop taking children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. By Tuesday, federal authorities said more than 2,000 children were separated from their parents and placed in cages ion detention facilities.
The president’s new policy was still unclear to many, as children already placed in detention centers would seemingly remain in custody. There was also confusion over when federal agents would cease separating families.
Bottoms, undistracted by Trump’s sleight of hand, on Wednesday signed an executive order banning the Atlanta city jail from accepting new detainees from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“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 statement. “My personal angst has been compounded by the City of Atlanta’s long-standing agreement with the U.S. Marshal’s Office to house ICE detainees in our City jail.”
It was unclear if any detained migrants were being held in Atlanta.
Bottoms’ directive took the resistance to a higher level, as several other Black leaders continued to make their own contributions to the fight.
California’s Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris tweeted about the holes in Trump’s executive order to end the family separations.
Despite the so-called reversal, Gary Indiana’s Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson declined to cancel her previously planned trip to visit detained migrant parents on Thursday in Tornillo, Texas, the Chicago Tribune reported. She was one of several mayors from the U.S. Conference of Mayors who wanted to do a first-hand assessment of the situation.
“It makes me sick to my stomach. I was just overcome with sadness that we have devolved to a state that we would allow political motivation to trump human rights,” she said, referring to news reports about traumatized children.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Tuesday that he opposed a plan to build a facility in his city for undocumented children. “I don’t want in the city of Houston for us to participate in a policy that I think is morally bankrupt,” he said at a press conference.
Meanwhile, Black religious leaders were also adding their voices to the chorus of opposition, even as Trump appeared to soften his policy. The Rev. Al Sharpton organized a group of ministers and demanded that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions allow them to meet with the families because they “all have the right to a ministerial visit,” he said.
The ministers held a rally on Thursday and met with some of the children.