WASHINGTON, D.C. ― In face of the Senate Republicans’ refusal to hold a hearing on conditions at the southern border, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) in leading a Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) hearing Tuesday entitled “America Speaks Out: Stop Trump’s Cruel Treatment of Children at the Border.”
During the hearing, the senators heard testimony from a range of medical and legal experts on the Trump administration’s failed immigration policies, which have led to inhumane conditions at the border.
The senators heard from Imelda Maynard, senior attorney at Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico, as well as several other expert witnesses.
Tueday’s DPCC hearing comes in response to the Senate Republican Leadership’s failure to conduct any real oversight over the deplorable conditions at border facilities. Recently, Udall and Heinrich sent a letter to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson and Ranking Member Gary Peters calling for a hearing on standards for U.S. Border Patrol detention facilities.
Earlier this month, the senators also introduced legislation to help ensure humane and safe conditions and treatment for people in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. The Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, S. 2135, would require CBP to meet the basic health and medical needs of people in its care by conducting health screenings and delivering emergency care; providing humane short-term detention conditions; and ensuring access to adequate water, nutrition, and sanitation. Udall and Heinrich have also introduced the Central America Reform And Enforcement Act, a major legislative proposal to address the root causes of the Central American migrant crisis. And the senators secured $30 million in reimbursement for border communities in New Mexico and elsewhere that are on the front lines of this crisis. The Trump administration has cut off assistance to these struggling countries, worsening conditions there and leading more people to flee to safety.
“With every passing day, we hear more reports of inhumane and degrading treatment of children and families in Customs and Border Protection facilities along the border,” Udall said in his opening statement. “This administration is violating basic human rights. The conditions at CBP facilities are unsafe and unsanitary, and were never designed to be detention facilities… I’ve been to the border and I’ve talked to these families. I’ve heard the stories of the violence and persecution they are fleeing. And I’ve seen how our communities in New Mexico have stepped up to help the families released by CBP into the streets. We can address migration and asylum in a humanitarian way. If this administration will not correct course and ensure the humane treatment of migrants, Congress must step in and do so. I call upon my Republican colleagues to join us in calling for a return to the welcoming country our founders intended.”
“We as a Congress should do everything we can to hold this Administration accountable for flouting our nation’s laws and American values. Children as young as infants and toddlers have been taken from their families. Migrant families and children are being held in overcrowded, prison-like facilities,” Heinrich said in his opening statement. “I would implore my colleagues who are here today—and especially our Republican colleagues—to listen to the grave details that these witnesses are telling us about the conditions in these facilities. It’s clear that the Trump administration has shown an appalling disregard of basic human dignity. This is not who we are as a country, and this is not how we should treat our fellow human beings.”
“Rather than spending billions of dollars on a wall and further tactics aimed at militarizing our border, money should be invested in hiring more adjudicators and support personnel so that we uphold the rule of law by giving people their day in court and an opportunity to make their case,” said Imelda Maynard, senior attorney at Catholic Charities of Southern New Mexico. “Instead of detaining families, we should instead invest that money in alternatives to detention, which are far more cost-effective and humane. Families belong together, but not in cages or outside of our borders in cities we know to be dangerous for them. Bottom line: we need to stop criminalizing families who come to the U.S. seeking refuge.” A copy of Maynard’s opening statement is available HERE.