“Stop putting kids in cages Ken Buck, love Jesus,” is the message one Colorado woman wrote in chalk outside the Castle Rock office of Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO). For that, she’s facing possible jail time.
According to a local ABC affiliate, Shauna Johnson had a meeting at the congressman’s office Monday and wrote the message in front of the building on her way out, protesting the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents when they cross the U.S. border without documentation.
The building’s management spotted her and called the police, who issued a misdemeanor charge because the incident may have taken place on private property. It is unclear whether the congressman’s office did anything to abate the situation and Buck’s spokesperson Kyle Huwa told Denver7 that “Congressman Buck appreciates civic engagement and encourages his constituents to voice their opinions respectfully.”
“As an American, I have the right to free speech,” Johnson, who later returned to the office and cleaned up the chalk message, told the news outlet. “And in all honesty, I feel like all they’re trying to do is bully me into being quiet about a very serious issue.”
Johnson is scheduled to head to court later this summer.
The practice of separating children from their parents when they cross the U.S. border also took place under the Bush and Obama administrations — albeit rarely — but there is no law requiring that children be taken from their families. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced a “zero tolerance” policy that requires all people, including those seeking asylum, who attempt to cross the border into the United States without documentation, to be prosecuted. The policy has resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of children being separated from their parents.
Despite this reality, in an interview with a local Colorado radio station earlier this month, Buck blamed immigrant parents, not the Trump administration, for such family separations.
“I think it’s unfortunate when families are separated. But it’s also unfortunate when families make a decision to break the law. And there are consequences in this country,” he said. “I think it’s just a sad reality that there is going to be some unfortunate separation of individuals when crimes are committed.”
He then compared immigrant parents and children, many of whom are asylum seekers fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries, to criminals.
“I was a [district attorney] for years, a prosecutor for 25 years. And I was involved in making sure that those who are more dangerous and violated the law were separated from the rest of society. And that’s part of what we do,” he said.
Buck’s record as the district attorney of Colorado’s Weld County sheds light on exactly what types of individuals he considers to be “dangerous.” In 2006, he helped orchestrate what was, at the time, the largest workplace immigration raid in U.S. history at the JBS Swift Greeley Beef Plant. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detained more than 250 immigrant workers, tearing families apart in what came to be known as the “man-made Katrina” of the Latinx community.
As immigration advocacy organization America’s Voice highlights, Buck is also well known for organizing a 2008 raid on a tax office for Latinx immigrants, resulting in the seizure of thousands of confidential tax returns and the arrests of dozens of suspected undocumented immigrants.
“The whole thing was later deemed unconstitutional and Weld County spent $150,000 in legal fees defending Buck’s decisions,” a report by America’s Voice reads.
Buck also famously “supported Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law [which allowed law enforcement to ask for proof of residency from anyone stopped for any reason]; and he suggested changing the constitution so as to deny birthright citizenship to the children of immigrants,” the report details.
ThinkProgress reached out to Rep. Buck’s office for comment, but did not receive a response. This story will be updated if a response is received.