Congressional Hispanic Caucus Leads Investigation at Immigrant Detention Facilities in Texas
EL PASO, TEXAS — Today, Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and their Democratic colleagues held a press conference following a delegation in El Paso and Clint, Texas. The purpose of the delegation was to investigate several facilities used to detain immigrants. Below are remarks as delivered by Congressman Castro (TX-20) and excerpts from remarks as delivered by members of the delegation:
Chair Joaquin Castro:
“Alright, y’all. Thank you for being here to cover this important issue. My name is Joaquin Castro, I chair the Congressional Hispanic Caucus this term, and I represent the city of San Antonio in the House of Representatives.
“Today, about 14 Members of Congress had a chance to visit Casa Franklin, an ORR facility run by Southwest Key, Border Patrol Station #1 in El Paso and right now the Border Patrol Station in Clint, Texas. We came today and we saw that the system is still broken, and that people’s human rights are still being abused. We remain very concerned about the conditions in which people are being kept.
“In fact, at the Border Patrol Station #1, we had a chance to visit with about 15 or 20 mothers, some of whom had been at that Border Patrol Station for over 50 days. Some had been separated from their kids. When we went into the cell, it was clear that the water was not running. There was a toilet, but there was no running water for people to drink. In fact, one of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink water out of the toilet.
“These are the conditions that have been created by the Trump Administration. These are the inhumane conditions that folks are facing. And so, this is not just about more money for Border Patrol or for the Department of Homeland Security. This is also about the standards of care. The standards of care by which people are being taken care of - both children and adults. And, we remain committed in Congress to making sure that these conditions improve, that the system be morally defensible.
“I would also like to very quickly speak to the Facebook page that was discovered by ProPublica today. That was a vulgar, disgusting, and vile page. That shows, unfortunately, that there are many within CBP who’ve become desensitized to the point of being dangerous to the migrants in their care and to their co-workers. There are many good agents. There are many good agents who are overwhelmed by those, like those who were part of that Facebook page. And we expect that there will be a full investigation. I expect that there will be a congressional investigation to get to the bottom of it. With that, I want to turn it over to the Congresswoman from El Paso, Veronica Escobar.”
Rep Veronica Escobar (TX-16): “One of the things that we see in action – whether it’s the Facebook page or the chants that you’re hearing today – is a dehumanizing of people that is very dangerous to our country. It’s very dangerous and the minute that we lose our own humanity then we’ve gone into a very dark place. And unfortunately, our country has gone into a very dark place.”
“Good public policy is crafted when people are able to see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, and speak to people, whether it be agents or whether it be people in detention.”
Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44): “We know the separations continue. We did not get answers—completely unacceptable—we did not get answers about the MPP Program, the Remain in Mexico program. People are being raped when they are being sent back, people are undergoing violence. And we did not get answers about the inconsistencies of policy on who is sent back and who is not.”
Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27): “I will never forget the image of being in a cell and seeing 15 women, tears coming down their faces, as they talked about being separated from their children, about having no running water, and about not being able to know when they were going to get out since they had already been there 50 days.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-04): “I wanted to see how our government treats the least of these...That’s what we wanted to do here today, to visit this broken system, to say that we can do better as Americans. We will be judged as a country, as a government, by how we treat the least of these. And with that, I know we can do better.”
Rep. Mark Veasey (TX-33): “What I saw here today, in our state, on United States property, is shameful. And it’s been exacerbated by the policies of this President of the United States, Stephen Miller, and the other people around here that have used people as pawns in a game, instead of working with Congress to try to pass real, comprehensive immigration reform and try to do something.”
“We need to be spending money on helping individuals. with health care needs, with housing, with food -- not with all these enforcement efforts that we’re seeing here today that are separating families. When we get back to DC, we’re demanding that we get to work on this, that the President work with us, and that we get something passed for these families and for our country.”
Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31): “What this trip was about is providing oversight. This trip is us as Members of Congress exercising our constitutionally directed job to provide oversight over these conditions, and over this Administration that is not implementing the policies that we have passed as Congress.”
Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-03): “There were times when I walked through these facilities and I was enraged, and there were times when I walked through this facility and I was brought to my knees in tears. And it is because these are some of the things I saw: I saw young girls under five years old quarantined in a small box of a room, 8 by10 feet, because they have the flu. Not able to eat because they have the flu. And they are given cheeseburgers and juice. We are not giving basic human rights to children right now who are in our custody.”
“Let me be super clear: these facilities are not built to care for children. The people who are trained here, they are not trained to give care to children. So, we need to come up with prescriptions and responsible solutions to give high quality care for kids who are in our custody. This is about children, human rights, and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14): “What we saw today was unconscionable. No child should ever be separated from their parent. No child should ever be taken from their family. No woman should ever be locked up in a pen when they have done no harm to another human being. They should be given water. They should be given basic access to human rights. And it is a false notion the idea that we have to choose between people is a false notion! No child ever has to suffer for the benefit of another and I will never accept that argument.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-07): “Before coming here I asked my constituents what message they wanted me to deliver to the children and families here today. They asked me to deliver a message that you are welcome here and that we love you and that we will never stop fighting for your dignity, for your humanity, and for the preservation of your family.”
“We’ve talked about the most vulnerable amongst us - our children, but I want to talk about their parents: the mothers, the abuelas, the tias, the madres that I sat with who wept openly in our arms, not even knowing our names because of the trauma they are experiencing and because they don’t know where their children are.”
“I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity and the full freedoms of black and brown children being negotiated and compromised and moderated! We need a system that works, that is humane, and that is compassionate and that keeps families together.”
“I learned a long time ago that when change happens it is either because people see the light or they feel the fire. Today we are lifting up these stories in the hopes that you will see the light. And if you don’t we will bring the fire!”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13): “You know what we‘re doing today - we are putting America first! Not hate!"
“What I learned today and seen the eyes of a father of a fourteen year old is that it is not about children only - it is also about the fathers and the mothers. But, I will out-work your hate, I will out-love your hate. I will always put my country first!”
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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.