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Dear Friend –

I want to update you about my recent trip to the southern border to investigate the reports of horrible conditions and the stories of families being ripped apart that so many of us have heard about. 

On this trip I visited McAllen and El Paso, TX to tour Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Here’s what I saw:

Conditions of CBP Facilities 
Outcomes of the recent family separation policy at the border have resulted in the needless deaths of 10 people in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody in the last nine months - three children and seven adults. On my trip to the border, the condition of the facilities where unaccompanied men were held were in the worst condition. I saw men in cages with only one toilet, no mattresses, and no bathing materials. There were men crammed into small cages where there was no room to sleep or lie down. Some men told me they had been there for 60-80 days. These conditions were overcrowded and unsanitary, and do not reflect the respect for human dignity that our nation values.

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I took this photo at the McAllen facility in Texas, where men were packed into small cages while talking to CBP agents

Unsolved Situation for Women and Children 
The conditions for families and children were much different. I saw children with places to sleep, bathe, and shower, and I saw adequate supplies and officials who cared for them. However, the problem is not solved; in fact, it’s worse than that. President Trump instituted what’s known as the Migrant Protection Protocol, which forces individuals requesting asylum to remain in Mexico while their cases are being considered in the United States. There are now 16,000-18,000 people, including women and children, who are just across the border living in unaccountable homeless shelters and on the street. We have no idea what conditions these individuals are living in or the treatment they are receiving, while there appears to be improved conditions on the U.S. side of the border. I believe that that this is appalling, and the policy must end.

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Speaking to a CBP Border Agent with Representative Spanberger (VA-7) at a port of entry about the process migrants must go through to enter the United States.

Ports of Entry
When a person seeks asylum from our southern border, they are supposed to come through a port of entry. However, only a small percentage of individuals actually come through a port of entry - most in Texas are crossing the dangerous Rio Grande River. Many smugglers, who charge individuals and families to cross the border, will lead folks to the river where you’re in danger of drowning or getting lost in the brush. 

It is clear that there aren’t enough staff at the ports of entry. We need to increase judges, staff, and resources at the border to help process asylum cases efficiently and reduce the number of border crossings across the Rio Grande. We should also reinstitute the practice started by President Obama of processing asylum-seekers in their own countries and transporting them to the U.S. to save them from the 1,000-mile arduous journey. Because of newly-enacted policies that eliminated this policy, the situation at the border is much worse.

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The Rio Grande River at the southern border

Steps I am Taking in Congress
Congress has taken some steps to address the situation at the border. We passed border legislation to provide $4.6 billion in humanitarian assistance for children and families, including legal assistance, food, water, sanitary items, blankets and medical services, and support services for unaccompanied children and refugees. This legislation also included humane alternatives to detention in order to crack down on the horrible conditions reported at the border.

Recently the House passed H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, which will ensure that CBP facilities protect the health and safety of both asylum seekers and CBP officers - and prevent further needless deaths at the border. 

While Congress is taking action, I believe the President must also commit to providing the resources and support to ensure we are treating those who come to our country with decency and respect. American values, our collective moral conscience, and the Constitution require us to treat all individuals humanely.  I believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to respect the basic rights of those seeking asylum and to uphold the dignity of human life throughout the process.

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Talking with CBP Border Agent Cook and Representative Spanberger (VA-7) about the conditions of migrant facilities at the border. H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, will ensure that these facilities are safe and healthy for both migrants and border agents.

As my team and I continue to work on the issues that are important to you, don’t forget to follow my official Twitter and Facebook pages to stay in touch and let me know how we can do better. 

My district office staff is also available to provide assistance with federal agencies. If you are experiencing problems with federal services such as Medicare or veterans' benefits, please contact the office at (301) 926-0300. We will work hard to ensure that your problem is resolved.

Sincerely,
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David Trone
Member of Congress

 

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