Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement for the markup of H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individual in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act:
"H.R. 3239, the "Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act," responds to the chaos and cruelty of the Trump Administration’s immigration policy—a policy that has contributed to the needless deaths of 10 people in Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, custody in the last nine months, including 3 children and 7 adults.
"This critical legislation would require all individuals in CBP custody to receive an initial medical screening and would set certain minimum standards of hygiene, nutrition, and shelter that CBP must meet.
"Treating individuals in CBP custody with basic standards of human decency is the very least that we can do, and it is outrageous that this Administration may need Congress to act before it will do the right thing.
"For some time, we have been confronted with the images of too many children and families squeezed into overcrowded and unsanitary CBP facilities. These images, while powerful, can make the suffering and deaths of individuals—even children—seem abstract. But these individuals are someone’s loved ones, these children had names: including Carlos Hernandez Vásquez, who was 16 when he died; Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, who died at 8 years old; and Jakelin Caal Maquin, who was just 7 years old when she died in CBP custody.
"The bill we are considering today will not bring them back. But it will help make certain that no other child or parent in CBP custody dies for lack of an appropriate medical screening or access to medical care.
"Whatever the President might say, CBP custody facilities are not overcrowded and under-resourced because too many people are seeking protection from conflict and violence at our Southern border.
"These facilities are overwhelmed because the Trump Administration has made the unnecessary jailing of children and families the center of its immigration policy. There is much we could do instead, such as more rapid adjudication of asylum cases and the release of some families pending their hearings. Instead of doing the hard work of responding to and managing the challenges at our border, it has focused on dehumanizing immigrants, with all too tragic results.
"Our colleague, the Gentleman from California, Mr. Ruiz, a medical doctor and the author of this legislation, has put in the effort that the Trump Administration apparently lacks the will or the ability to do. H.R. 3239 is designed to ensure that CBP facilities protect the health and safety of both immigrants and CBP officers—and to prevent needless deaths.
"It requires CBP to partner with professionals in emergency response, health care, and child welfare so that CBP agents can return to their primary role of protecting the border from real threats, and immigrants can be assessed by professionals who can make informed decisions.
"It requires that CBP facilities provide basic human necessities, including sufficient numbers of showers, soap, toothpaste, and clean clothing, so that children and CBP agents do not get sick as a result of unsanitary conditions that are easily cured, if planned for and managed well.
"The bill requires written documentation concerning health screenings, medical care, and medications so that upon arrival at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Health and Human Services facility, an immigrant’s health status is already known and staff can prepare appropriately.
"The Administration’s enforcement-only policy has already needlessly filled up facilities with men, women, and children who simply do not need to be there. And people have been dying as a result. This bill is the first step in preventing additional deaths, by ensuring that individuals are held in humane conditions and have access to basic medical care when circumstances warrant. It is the very least we can do as a civilized society.
"I commend Representative (and Doctor) Ruiz for introducing the "Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody Act," and I urge all my colleagues to support this important legislation."