San Francisco leader confronts Cruz on border policy: ‘Wrestle with your conscience’

A San Francisco leader shared video on Monday showing her tense exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, about border policy and family separations during a run-in at Los Angeles International Airport over the weekend.

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen wrote in a Facebook post that the interaction occurred when she heard union members chanting “free the children” at Cruz after she got off a plane on Sunday at the Southern California airport.

“Although many may say it’s pointless, I will never miss an opportunity to confront those in power and appeal to their conscience,” Ronen wrote, sharing a link to the roughly three-minute video of the encounter. “And we must not let them have any peace until there is justice.”

Reports of child and adult Central American migrants held in cages at federally-run facilities have sparked outrage from some in the United States, as did President Trump’s policy of separating families at the border. Rep. Doris Matsui, who represents California’s 6th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, said after touring Texas migrant detention centers this month that “in some cases it felt like a third world country on our side of the border,” McClatchy newsgroup reported.

After introducing herself and shaking hands with Cruz, Ronen tells the former GOP presidential candidate that she and others are “horrified by what is happening” at the U.S.-Mexico border and says “kids are dying and families are being separated,” the video clip shows.

Cruz responds by saying that “the cages were built by President Obama.”

“I don’t care who built the cages,” Ronen tells the senator. “Dismantle them — you have the power to dismantle them ... I’m arguing to take them out of cages and give them back to their moms and dads.”

Ronen represents San Francisco’s Mission District, according to Mission Local. It’s an area of the city with a large but declining Latino population, KQED reported in 2015.

Cruz responds to Ronen by telling her that “their moms and dads are often not here, they’re arriving alone.”

President Donald Trump speaks as he tours the U.S. border with Mexico at the Rio Grande on the southern border on Jan. 10, 2019, in McAllen, Texas, alongside Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, left, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci AP

“So bring them to foster families, but don’t cage them in jails,” Ronen says. “Wrestle with your conscience, and please do something — you have this amazing power to do something.”

But Cruz counters that he has “been leading the fight to stop this” and says that Democrats are getting in the way of efforts he’s tried in Congress.

“As a result of the policies Congress has put in place, we are incentivizing human traffickers and drug traffickers to take children into this country because effectively we’ve said — bring a little child … get out of jail free card,” Cruz tells Ronen.

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment on the encounter.

“Oh, come on,” Ronen responds to Cruz near the end of the video. “What I care about is there is a catastrophe happening in Central America and Mexico.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.