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As Senate Republicans Seek To Roll Back Protections for Children in Detention, Democrats Move Forward With Basic, Minimal Standards for CBP Custody

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H.R. 3239 provides “basic, common, human decency that is sorely lacking”

Next week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will mark-up Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s bill to remove basic protections for children in U.S. immigration custody and allow the government to hold children beyond the court-mandated minimum period of 20 days.  This is in stark contrast to the direction taken by Democrats who control the U.S. House of Representatives who will vote tomorrow on a bill to protect children, families and individuals in U.S. immigration custody by ensuring minimal standards of food, sanitation, drinking water, oversight and health screenings.

Wednesday, the House is expected to vote on and pass the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody Act (H.R. 3239), a bill authored by California Congressman and medical doctor Raul Ruiz, which will require basic health screenings, access to clean food, toilets, water and safe shelter for detainees at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities, whether they are federally-run or privately contracted with for-profit companies. 

Meanwhile, Democrat Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada took to the Senate floor today to talk about minimum detention conditions for those in immigration custody and last week “wrote to Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Chairman Ron Johnson and Ranking Member Gary Peters requesting that upcoming HSGAC hearings on the border focus on specific issues and solutions for the inhumane treatment of minors at our southern border and that such hearings take place before the Senate adjourns for the August state work period,” according to the Senator’s website.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Communications Director of America’s Voice: “The House bill set for a vote on Wednesday sets minimal standards that most Americans would already assume are requirements for a decent, modern nation, but which have been shown repeatedly to be lacking in the treatment of migrant children, families and individuals. While Republicans in the White House and the Senate or seeking new ways to incarcerate people, deport them without oversight and remove any legal protections on the length of time children can be held or the conditions they face, Democrats in the House and Senate insist that children and families are not abused. It’s basic, common, human decency that is sorely lacking from the President and his allies in the Republican Party. The Ruiz bill, H.R. 3239, is not expansive, but sets minimal standards that all of us should have already insisted upon and should be passed and enacted without delay.”

The Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act would:

  • Develop a health screenings protocol for intake of individuals and ensure that all facilities had the infrastructure to conduct such screenings so that illness and communicable diseases were caught and treated accordingly, including provisions for documentation, medical ethics, mental health screenings and oversight;
  • Set minimal standards for access to clean drinking water, sanitation and toilets, and hygiene  like handwashing, soap and toothpaste for detainees;
  • Set minimal standards for food and nutrition for detainees;
  • Set minimal standards for the housing/shelter of children and adults in detention like temperature, lighting, bedding, protection for LGBTQ individuals and other minimal standards;
  • Provisions for addressing staff training, preparation for surges in migration and the transfer of detainees to medical facilities, if necessary;
  • Provisions for oversight of contractors, inspections, and GAO oversight of detention conditions.

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