Speaking at an immigration town hall in her home district, the New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for a “9/11-style commission” to investigate child separations on the border with Mexico on Saturday.
"In the 9/11 commission they had — they were charged with investigating and making sure they dug up every nook and cranny of what happened and how it happened in our system, and I think that that kind of study is what's going to be required in order to reunify as many children with their parents as possible," Ocasio-Cortez said during a town hall held in her district, CNN reports.
Thousands of children were separated from their parents at the southern border last year, under a “zero tolerance” policy meant to deter migrants from Central America. The effects have been lasting, and potentially devastating, as an unknown number of children have been separated from their families. A report filed by an internal watchdog released in January claims that thousands more children have been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border than the 2,737 listed by the government.
“Even if you separate a kid from their parents for two days you have already created lifelong, lasting trauma,” Ocasio-Cortez said, speaking to about 250 people at the Nancy DeBenedittis School in Corona, Queens.
“And there are children who have been separated that we have reunified, and it took about a year to reunify some of these kids with their parents. Lifelong trauma for which we, the United States, are responsible.
“And it chills me to my core to think about 20 years from now, when these kids grow up, the story that they will have about America,” she continued. “That is exactly why we cannot allow this administration to define immigration policy within the United States. This is something that I think is going to have to take a 9/11-style commission.”
She added, “I believe we have a responsibility to provide mental healthcare services to those children for the rest of their lives.
While the topic of the town hall was immigration, Ocasio-Cortez addressed President Donald Trump’s racist subtweet and chants at his rally about her and three other freshmen congresswomen of color this week, and tied them back to the issue at hand.
“All you need to do is hear what the president did this week to know that this is not about immigration at all. Because once you start telling American citizens to quote ‘go back to their countries,’ this tells you that this president’s policies are not about immigration, it’s about ethnicity and race,” she said.
The 9/11 commission the Ocasio-Cortez was referring to — officially called the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States — was created in 2002 to provide a "complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks."
Advocates expect that the number of children separated from their parents and placed in detention will continue to surge in upcoming months. Here are a few ways in which you can help these families.