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Tragic, Ugly Detention Cases Underscore Need for Congress to Enact Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody Act

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“Trump and the Republicans quite literally don’t seem to care.”

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3239, the “Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody Act,” sponsored by Rep. and Doctor Raul Ruiz (D-CA). Only one GOP Member (Alaska Rep. Don Young) voted for this legislation to provide for basic standards of care for children, families and individuals in federal custody and to ensure minimal standards for food, water, toilets, showers, toothbrushes, cots and health screenings to detect communicable diseases for children and others in custody.

Two horrible cases out of Texas offer visceral real life reminders why this legislation matters so much – and underscore how unconscionable it is that our government in our name is currently refusing to abide by these basic standards and that congressional Republicans nearly unanimously voted against these protections.

According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

This is not some esoteric debate. This is a life-and-death matter for those detained by Border Patrol and ICE. In our name, the Trump administration has mismanaged a refugee crisis, caused a humanitarian crisis, and now presides over a human rights emergency. Trump and his team have refused to abide by the standards of basic competency, decency, or humanity to responsibly deal with human beings fleeing violence and hunger and seeking safety in America. As a result, people are dying. U.S. citizens are being caught up in the chaos. Trump and the Republicans quite literally don’t seem to care.

Just today, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, complained at a hearing that Democrats in Congress are not doing anything to address conditions faced by children and adults in detention and just want headlines. Yet just yesterday, Collins, like almost every  Republican, voted against the Humanitarian Standards Act when it was on the floor. The Republican Party must be okay with headlines about a U.S. citizen not getting a shower or enough food for 23 days in CBP custody, or with mounting reports of preventable deaths of children because we cage them while denying appropriate medical assistance.

Background Information on The Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act (H.R. 3239

H.R. 3239 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.