Angered by the conditions at migrant detention centers, the influential group of democrats are pressing house leaders to move quickly to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on Wednesday called for a new spending bill this month, frustrated that the $ 4.6 trillion emergency legislation that a divided House backed last week failed to include explicit standards for the care of migrants in federal custody.
"We need to leverage our power in the House of Representatives," Castro said in an interview with The Washington Post. Any new border legislation, he said, needs to move people out of the system faster, lift the standards of care, and, for the long term, invest in Central America so that you have less people desperate enough to try to make the journey . ”
Castro joined more than a box of lawmakers at tours of three facilities this week in the El Paso area, including the Border Patrol station in Clint, Tex., Which was the subject of recent reports of severe overcrowding and deprivation for migrant children held there last month.
The lawmakers found less crowded conditions this week, but they said they were concerned about the Border Patrol facilities, which are not equipped for the long-term detention of migrants, as well as the broader ability of the Trump administration to move migrants into more humane settings. Castro shared photos from inside an El Paso Border Patrol station where lawmakers described facilities with no running water and other harsh conditions.
The crisis poses an ongoing challenge for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) And other House leaders as they try to mount an effective response. The emergency bill provides resources through Sept. 30, but Castro and others want leaders to get moving as soon as possible on the next round of border funding.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump defended the Border Patrol, blamed the Democrats and said the detention centers offer an improved existence for migrants.
"Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses. The Democrats asked Immigration Laws, which could be easily fixed, are the problem. Great job at Border Patrol, above and beyond. Many of these illegals aliens are living better now than where they are, ”Trump wrote.
Two reports from the Department of Homeland Security's internal watchdog released this week described nightmarish conditions inside Border Patrol holding cells, which have intensified Democrats' outrage and demands for new investigations.
The reports describe "serious overcrowding" that risked violations of detention standards, including adults "in standing room only conditions for a week" and another location where detainees languished a month in jam-packed cells. 19659014] One border official duty inspectors the situation was to a "ticking time bomb" and that agents feared and uprising by detainees. "At some facilities, Border Patrol was a law enforcement company to maintain personal hygiene," an inspector reported from the crowded facilities in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, the busiest area for illegal crossings along the entire Mexico border. “Most single adults were wearing the clothes they arrived in days, weeks, and even up to a month prior.”
The report found “many single adults had received only bologna sandwiches,” and “some detainees on this diet were becoming constipated and required medical attention. ”
Other facilities were so far that families with children were forced to sleep outdoors on the ground, with little more than plastic mylar sheets, and illnesses spread rampant among detainees and border agents. ] The number of migrants taken into custody fell almost 30 percent last month after reaching a high of 144,000 in May, a drop that Homeland Security officials primarily attributed to a crackdown on Central American migrants launched by the Mexican government after reaching a new enforcement pact with the Trump administration on June 7.
Officials say the Border Patrol's detainee population has dropped to around 11,000, and "soft-sided" tent Facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, El Paso and Yuma border sectors have also included the conditions detailed in the inspector general reports. The number of unaccompanied minors in Border Patrol has dropped from more than 2,350 on May 30 to fewer than 300 this week, according to DHS numbers.
Overcrowding continued until early June, when the inspectors conducted their visits to the Rio Grande Valley
Compounding lawmakers' anger revelations about the postings targeting migrants and democratic lawmakers on a private Facebook group patronized by current and former Border Patrol officers. Those reports, first published by ProPublica, have prompted widespread calls for investigations and on demand Wednesday from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) To replace the leadership atop U.S.
Singing out Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan, Schumer said the agency's leaders have been "too callous about the way in which children and their families are treated" and have presided about an “out of control agency.”
The Department of Homeland Security's inspector general is expected to investigate, and congressional committees are also expected to probe the matter. forms Border Patrol agents who are part of this, "Castro said of the private group. “That's not 10 guys just shooting the [bull] with each other. That's a significant percentage of the Border Patrol workforce. ”
A senior Democratic leadership aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations on the legislative agenda, said this point, there are no plans for the House to take up a new border spending bill in July. The high-tension clash over the emergency bill – raised in part by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the aide said – has made the issue too politically treacherous for the time being.
But Castro said in an interview Wednesday that the House needed to make a quick statement "through as much unity as possible and a show of strength" to avoid having to again swallow legislation that did not reflect key democratic priorities
The 2020 homeland security bill emerging from House Appropriations Committee last month includes tightly restricted funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for instance. At the time of the June 11 vote, the bill was unanimously supported by the bill – including several CHC and Congressional Progressive Caucus members. But since the border blowups of recent weeks, any vote for ICE funding could kick up, the aide said: “I don't know how to put the genie back in the bottle.”
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), A CPC co-chair, confirmed Wednesday that the party's left flank would push for further changes. "No blank checks," she said. "If we are going to allocate money, we have to make sure there is clear accountability."
The House this month is expected to take up the annual Pentagon authorization, a minimum wage increase and other policy bills that stacked up in June as lawmakers worked through the annual spending bills.
Democrats, especially in the House, are expected to continue pressing for close oversight of the Trump administration's border policies. The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday invited Morgan and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to testify at a July 12 hearing. It was unclear whether they would appear
Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) Said the hearing would be the reports of the Clint station and facilities, as well as the Facebook revelations and a DHS inspector general reports .
"There is an open contempt for the rule of law and for basic human decency," Cummings said in a statement.
Hanging over the congressional response to the border crisis is a threat from Trump to begin a campaign or mass deportations targeting families living illegally in US cities. On Saturday, a two-week reprieve announced by Trump is set to expire, and a senior White House official said raids are likely to start over the ensuing week – targeted one city at a time. Another administration official confirmed that ICE will go forward with family deportations now that the emergency border funding is in place. Both official spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private deliberations.
"Not a blitz" as Trump previously threatened, the White House official said. "But raids are going to happen."
Trump has forwarded the deportations as a way to force Congress into a larger negotiation on changes to immigration policies, particularly the federal government's handles migrants seeking asylum. the idea that the house should respond directly to Trump's threats. Better, he said, to the congressional power of the purse to rein in the administration.
"I don't think the House should reward the president for using immigrants to fuel his reelection campaign," Castro said. Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.