Lawmakers deplore conditions at humanitarian border crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three Democratic lawmakers called on the Obama Administration to increase efforts to provide a safe and secure environment for tens of thousands of unaccompanied children apprehended on the U.S. – Mexico border.
U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, joined a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the Rio Grande Valley this week to learn more about the unprecedented spike in unaccompanied migrant children apprehended along the southwest border. They met with government officials charged with responding to the situation as well as non-governmental organizations, including faith-based organizations, providing legal advice and other support to the children.
The lawmakers issued the following statement at the conclusion of their tour:
“After completing a tour of part of the southwest border this week, several things have become very clear to us.
“First, the Border Patrol has done an excellent job in an extremely difficult situation, and the men and women protecting and apprehending individuals at the border deserve our thanks.
“Second, after being briefed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum specialists, we learned many thousands of these children are bona fide refugees fleeing dangerous situations. They are deserving of protection under international and domestic law. Additionally, countless others have received special immigrant juvenile status following adjudication of dependency proceedings by state judges based on findings of abuse, neglect, or abandonment by a parent.
“Third, the conditions of small children confined in Border Patrol stations are unacceptable. Countless children – even toddlers – are currently being held in holding cells in Border Patrol stations that were never designed to care for them. We saw one 3-year old child who had been held for 12 days – she had been looked after by a teenage detainee, but after her caretaker was transferred to another Border Patrol facility in Nogales, the child was handed off from one preteen detainee to another as they were churned in and out of the station. This is intolerable, and the Administration must address the situation without delay, including, if necessary, utilizing FEMA resources to provide these children with a safe and secure environment while their immigration matters are being decided.
“Finally, going forward, we need top to bottom, bipartisan immigration reform. We also need a strong, multinational effort to address the causes that are driving these children to flee from their homes. Only by dealing with the root causes of violence and predation in Central America will we adequately address this sharp spike of unaccompanied children in the United States. These children deserve better; our country must do better.”