WAMC: After Visiting Border Facilities, NY Reps Call For Different Approaches
Congressional representatives from New York are back after visiting facilities on the U.S. southern border to see firsthand the conditions for processing and holding undocumented immigrants. Democratic Congressman Antonio Delgado joined a delegation to Texas and says the problem is complex.
The 19th District Democrat traveled with members of the House Homeland Security Committee to McAllen, Texas July 19. The bipartisan delegation visited a border patrol station, processing center, holding facility and Hidalgo port of entry. Congressman Delgado says they also visited the New Hope Children’s Center.
“The biggest takeaway was, aside, obviously, from the conditions, which are unconscionable and need to be addressed immediately, but also just the complexity of this issue. There’s no doubt a surge. The numbers speak for themselves in terms of families coming from Central America. And the president’s policies, I think, have exacerbated the situation,” Delgado says. “So we have facilities that are not designed to detain families, or even adults, for extended periods of time being asked to do so and, because of that, they’re not equipped, which leads to some of the inhumane conditions that we’ve had to witness.”
He says it’s time to figure out how to address the situation more humanely and compassionately and pay attention to facts.
“I think in 2018 there are about close to 400,000 apprehensions along the Southwest border. There are now up to about 688,000. I went to the Rio Grande Valley and there are, to date, this year, have been 256,000 apprehensions; 27,000 unaccompanied kids, and about 155,000 family units,” says Delgado. “Just for the unaccompanied children, a 60 percent increase and, for family unit, a 293 percent increase.”
He says there is a clear uptick in Central Americans seeking relief from extreme poverty and violence and those seeking asylum.
“And so that is something that you can can’t pinpoint to any one administration. It dates back to a long history of, I would argue, policy decisions, in part, made by different administrations that have impacted that region in a negative fashion,” Delgado says. “All the more reason why some of the discussion has to be with leaders of that region along with our allies to figure out exactly what we can do to offer humanitarian aid in that region.”
Delgado says it is critical to work across the aisle to get resources to these facilities, ensure basic needs are being met and adequate care is provided, while ensuring critical oversight so that resources are used appropriately.
Also on July 19, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other Senate Democrats, including Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal, traveled to McAllen, Texas with the same purpose. They visited the largest migrant intake facility on the southern border — the Ursula RGV Centralized Processing Center. Schumer said the conditions for migrants at facilities on the southern border are unbearable, inhumane and heartbreaking. In response, President Trump says he will meet with Schumer and tweeted July 21, quote, “Senator Chuck Schumer has finally gone to the Southern Border with some Democrat Senators. This is a GREAT thing! Nearby, he missed a large group of Illegal Immigrants trying to enter the USA illegally. They wildly rushed Border Patrol. Some Agents were badly injured….
Trump also tweeted “ ….Based on the comments made by Senator Schumer, he must have seen how dangerous & bad for our Country the Border is. It is not a “manufactured crisis,” as the Fake News Media & their Democrat partners tried to portray. He said he wants to meet. I will set up a meeting ASAP!”
Monday in Albany, Schumer said there was, in his words, one good facility, run by Catholic Charities.
“Whatever people’s positions are on immigration, to treat these people — mothers and fathers and children, little children — so inhumanely is awful” says Schumer. “The good news is we found an alternative down there run by Catholic Charities, Sister Norma Pimental. And we could treat much better and still keep rule of law by using methods like her. And I’m going to be urging the president to switch the model they use. No cages, no hundreds of people sleeping on cold floors. Use Sister Norma’s model, which is right down there.”
Delgado and his delegation also visited Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, a respite center.
“There’s real work for the Catholic Charities to do in light of the president’s now no longer implementing a cross the board zero-tolerance policy, particularly when it comes to family units,” says Delgado. “And I think the more and more we can enable and support these Catholic Charities who are doing incredible work, the more and more we can move families into communities in a way that is compassionate and that listens to our values as Americans.”
Earlier in the week, Chairwoman Nita Lowey joined her colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee in Homestead, Florida, to conduct an oversight visit of the Homestead Influx Facility for unaccompanied children. Homestead is a for-profit, emergency shelter housing nearly 2,000 migrant children. Lowey says, “There is absolutely no reason why children should be held in this emergency shelter for months on end. Congress has provided the resources to address the influx of children, and I am working to ensure that those resources are used appropriately,” said Lowey. “The bottom line is this: Even if this were the Ritz, or any other fancy hotel, the children should be with their families.”
The House is developing legislation to improve care and oversight at facilities like Homestead. Congresswoman Lowey says she looks forward to an Appropriations Committee hearing on the topic this week.