FAMILY FUGUE: Coffman insists military handle family reunification after touring Aurora ICE detention facility


AURORA | Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman wants to see more organization in reuniting families that were separated at the U.S. border. Ideally, he said he’d like to see somebody from the military at the helm of the effort.

At a news conference following a tour of the Aurora immigration detention facility this week, Coffman said there are still 42 parents in Aurora who are separated from their children. Since the Trump administration reversed an order splitting up families at the border, eight parents staying at the Aurora facility have been reunited with their children.

But Coffman told reporters there is a lack of process in doing so, and with so many agencies involved he’d like to see a single person take charge. Right now, he said, the process is “very fragmented.”

Somebody from the military, preferably the Marine Corps, makes the most sense, Coffman said. Why? Because they have a clear sense of deadlines, he added.

Coffman said he wasn’t allowed to talk to the separated parents at the immigration facility, though he asked if he could.

The congressman, who is up for re-election this year, said last week following a trip to El Paso to visit immigration detainment facilities there that there needs to be more organization.

“I was never in a room or meeting with all the players there because there’re so many,” he told the Sentinel, highlighting border patrol, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were all involved in some way.

“The question now becomes how long it will take to reunite these families, but I think there are bigger problems unfolding,” Coffman said last week. “The policy is just not working, so how do you get a coherent policy where it’s humanitarian but you’re regulating who comes across the border?”

At the very least, Coffman said President Donald Trump’s border wall proposal would not do much for the issues he said he saw at the southern border.

“The president talks about the wall or his border security ideas, (but) looking at the current situation, I just don’t know how it’d make a difference,” Coffman said. “What these families are doing now is they’re coached in terms of political asylum. All you have to do is state that you have a credible fear about being in your country, and it could be the violence — it can’t be economic, it has to be a credible fear — and then you have to be adjudicated through the legal system.”

Coffman said lawmakers should look at those laws to make sure the border receives enough resources to allow those claiming asylum to go through the legal system.

Jason Crow, the Democratic candidate vying to unseat Coffman held a campaign rally just before Trump announced the reversal of “zero tolerance.” In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. would prosecute every immigrant that tried to cross into the U.S. illegally. That led to families being separated at the border.

“Right now there are parents in facilities just like this one that have no idea where their children are, whether they are safe,” Crow said referencing the Aurora ICE Processing Center behind him. “There are children sitting at facilities on the border crying for their parents. Not knowing where they are or whether they will ever see them again. This is not who we are as a country. This is not OK by any standard of decency. We will not put up with it. We will not tolerate it.”

Upon political pressure, Trump issued a new policy stating families would be housed together.

So far there isn’t a concrete time line for reuniting families. The Trump administration said it would be 30 days, but Coffman said he doesn’t see that happening. He said his next move is sending a letter to the president outlining his concerns and his recommendations for organizing the process of reuniting families.