Democrats Demand Investigation Into Trump Migrant Child Deaths
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Immigration and Citizenship Vice Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and House Judiciary Vice Chair Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) demanded a DHS investigation:
Due to the seriousness of this tragedy and the many questions that remain, we request you initiate an investigation into this incident, as well as the four other deaths in CBP custody over the last few months. The investigation should assess CBP policies or practices, training curricula, staffing, and potential systemwide errors that may have contributed to the children’s deaths. The investigation should also identify policies and practices designed to protect health and safety and whether they were employed, as well as policies and practices that may be unnecessarily exposing children and families to particularly harsh terrain.
For example, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General issued a report in September of 2018 describing the impact of CBP’s policy of turning away asylum seekers. That report concluded that the practice of turning away asylum seekers at international bridges and “limiting the volume of asylum-seekers entering at ports of entry” may have caused an increase in unauthorized crossing attempts. One asylum seeker interviewed by the Office of Inspector General stated that “she had been turned away three times by an officer on the bridge before deciding to take her chances on illegal entry.” These facts are particularly troubling considering clear instructions from former Secretary Nielsen that asylum seekers should present themselves at ports of entry instead of crossing between the ports.
The investigation should also examine the appropriateness of holding children in Border Patrol stations, which were designed to hold adults, and not children, for no more than 72 hours. In December, you appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where you testified that CBP’s short-term holding cells are “incompatible” with increased migration of family units and unaccompanied children. You added that “[o]ur Border Patrol stations were built decades ago to handle mostly male single adults in custody, not families and children.”
As part of the Fiscal Year 2019 DHS appropriations bill, the agency was given $415 million for humanitarian relief, specifically for medical care, transportation, and improvements to CBP processing centers along the border. We are concerned that these funds may have not been adequately used to address systemic issues that have contributed to the death of asylum-seeking children. The fact that deaths have continued to occur three months after such funding was issued is troubling.
DHS had not had a child die in custody over the last ten years until December 2018. Since December, six children have died. The change that led to these deaths was the cruelty of the Trump administration toward migrant children. Trump sees punishing children as a deterrent to keep their parents from trying to come to the United States. It is not working. Trump has manufactured a crisis on the border, and children are dying.
There is blood on Trump’s hands, and Democrats are not going to allow those kids to be forgotten.