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MCALLEN, TX - JUNE 17: In this handout photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol agents conduct intake of illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center on June 17, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by U.S. Customs and Border Protection via Getty Images)


Connecticut lawmakers tour migrant detention facilities along US-Mexico border

Within the past week, Connecticut lawmakers toured migrant detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border and in southern Florida, describing what they encountered as “awful” and unsatisfactory.

On Friday, Senator Richard Blumenthal along with other Democrats spent the day touring facilities that hold adult and child migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. Blumenthal said what he witnessed was “a continuing American humanitarian crisis.”

The delegation of about a dozen Democratic senators was led by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Blumenthal and his colleagues toured facilities in McAllen, Texas. Schumer said, “it’s awful, awful, awful how these people are treated.”

Congress’ recent approval of $4 million-plus would help federal immigration officials ease crowding at facilities, Blumenthal said. “But what is needed is comprehensive immigration reform,” he said.

Although this was Blumenthal’s second trip to the U.S.-Mexico border since Trump took office, this visit, he said, has affected him. “I think that what we’ve seen here is going to haunt us for some time to come,”
Blumenthal said.

Democrats blamed the GOP and the Trump administration for the immigration crisis that began after President Donald Trump implemented a zero-tolerance policy whose aim was to detain all undocumented immigrants who try to enter the United States — including those who are trying to make asylum claims at border checkpoints.


The result has been crowded detention facilities and the separation of immigrant children from their parents. The Flores settlement agreement forbids holding minors for more than 20 days.

On July 15, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro and other Democrats toured the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Florida.
Following the tour, they expressed their dissatisfaction with the conditions at the center as well as the information they received concerning the children’s care.

They also questioned why it takes so long to place children with family in the United States. “We were told by some of the children here that they have, and some are here for 44 days, 56 days and 60 days,” she said at a press conference following the July 15 visit. “In fact, they do have family members and why aren’t they moving to leave this place and to
be with a family member?”

The Homestead facility and other centers housing migrant youth are under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. During the past two weeks, more than 1,000 children were moved to placement with a
sponsor, the delegation was told. But that raises questions for DHHS handling of the situation, DeLauro said. “If we could have moved these children that quickly, why haven’t we been moving them all along?” she asked.

DeLauro and members of the House Appropriations Committee, which she chairs, spoke with children at the facility. The committee has authority over the DHHS budget.

The Democratic delegation said it was shocked to learn that once a child turns 18, he or she is “shackled” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and arrested. “This is the United States of America, we have to be human,” said Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla.

The federal government expanded operations at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children after a migrant center in Tornillo, Texas was closed in January following reports of mistreatment of immigrants. The government also opened a new center in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

DeLauro plans to demand more information about the centers housing migrant children today at an oversight hearing on the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s (ORR) Unaccompanied Children program. “Rest assured, we are going to keep their feet to the fire,” she said.


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