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State Representative Fernandez: Well-Being of Youths Separated From Families Must Be Considered

Lou Gum
State representative Charlene Fernandez visits the KAWC News studio on Monday, July 16, 2018.

As the federal government struggles to meet a court-imposed deadline to reunite families separated at the border, the well-being of the young children being kept in facilities in Arizona and neighboring states must be considered, state Representative Charlene Fernandez told KAWC.

"(It's) very sad," Fernandez said. "It's an emotional issue. I've gone to two (court proceedings)... I'm sure the kids are scared.

Fernandez said she has seen children as young as five years old in court.

"Their feet didn't even touch the floor," she said.

Fernandez joined other lawmakers including Congressman Raúl Grijalva in visiting a center in Tucson where migrant youths are being held as they await being reunited with families.

"It's clean," she said of the Southwest Key facility. "It's a converted hotel... very kid-friendly, but it's still a hotel."

Fernandez said she learned the facility follows the same meal calendar as local schools and was assured the kids receive meals. When kids arrive, they are given health screenings and immunizations.

She observed classes where the kids were being taught English.

"The kids were looking down and were very well behaved," she said.

Fernandez said her concern is that some officials look at the centers as a business and are not always considering the children's well-being.