‘How can you live with yourself?’ — SF official confronts Sen. Ted Cruz on detention centers


On Guard column header Joe

San Francisco politicians angrily spout off about President Donald Trump and Republicans in general so often you could set your watch by it.

But rarely do they do it directly, face to face. In that regard, Supervisor Hillary Ronen is living the dream.

The San Francisco legislator, who represents heavily Latinx neighborhoods like The Mission, got right in Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s iconic nose Sunday, raking him over the coals for poor conditions at migrant detention centers at the Mexican border.

“We are horrified with what is happening with the caging of children and separation of families,” Ronen told Cruz. “I don’t know how you can live with yourself.”

The San Francisco legislator posted the video to her Facebook page, Monday morning.

Detention centers in Cruz’s home state of Texas have garnered national headlines, of late, as crowded conditions have surfaced. They’ve been called urine-soaked and “nightmarish” places where commonly cured diseases easily spread and migrants beg visiting journalists for help.

President Donald Trump has argued the federal government isn’t legally required to provide soap and toothpaste to immigrant children detained after crossing the border, who, separated from their parents, have slept on concrete floors sometimes with little access to basic medical treatment.

Ronen and Cruz went back and forth at Los Angeles International Airport as the senator was mere moments away from boarding a plane to Texas. She spotted AFSCME 3299 members chanting “free the children” at Cruz, prompting her to confront the senator.

Ronen first introduced herself as an elected representative from San Francisco and relayed her bona fides repping one of our largest Latinx communities.

Cruz wasn’t taking it.

“The cages were built by President Obama,” he retorted. Ronen stuck to her guns.

“Kids are dying, kids are dying, and families are being separated. Please do something to stop it, you have the power. I know what it’s like to have this responsibility, but families are dying,” she told him.

Above, watch Ronen confront Cruz on detention centers.

At this point, off-camera interactions let the viewers know they weren’t in San Francisco anymore. A man can be heard saying, with a Texan accent, “Praise God, Ted, we support you one hundred-and-ten percent.”

When Cruz tried his Obama line again, again asking “You know who built the cages?” Ronen was ready.

“I don’t care who built the cages,” she said. “Dismantle them.”

She ensured Cruz didn’t leave California without an earful.

Despite his party affiliation, Cruz has made some efforts to address conditions at the border. Earlier this month he wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, urging them to set up a process to accept donations for migrants in custody.

Cruz also led an effort with Texas Sen. John Cornyn to pass a bipartisan $4.6 billion bill to fund humanitarian aid at the border, including in those detention centers. That bill was initially critiqued by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who backs a competing House bill authored by Democrats with more provisions to ensure humane care for people detained at the border, according to the New York Times, before the two parties eventually brokered a compromise.

Vox has laid out the detention centers’ squalid conditions in detail:

The abhorrent living conditions seen in reports show that sleep for some detained migrants is nearly impossible: Fluorescent lights remain on overhead 24 hours a day, intense cold temperatures blast the warehouse, children and adults lie on concrete, sometimes under an aluminum foil blanket, sometimes not. Without access to clean drinking water, detained women at Clint are directed by Border Patrol agents to drink from the toilet, says Ocasio-Cortez.

A 16-year-old from Guatemala died at McAllen in May after being diagnosed with the flu. As of June, two dozen detainees have died in ICE custody since Donald Trump took office.

At least 2,654 children have been separated from their parents or caregivers as a result of Trump’s policies, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Writing to her constituents on Facebook, Ronen said the interaction was worth it, no matter the outcome.

“Although many may say it’s pointless, I will never miss an opportunity to confront those in power and appeal to their conscience. And we must not let them have any peace until there is justice,” Ronen wrote.

She added, “If I see anyone in power today, I will also get in their face about gun control!”

On Guard prints the news and raises hell each week. Email Fitz at joe@sfexaminer.com, follow him on Twitter and Instagram @FitztheReporter, and Facebook at facebook.com/FitztheReporter.

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