Border Crisis
July 20, 2019

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is the latest member of Congress to report on harrowing conditions after a visit to the southern border, where he and other lawmakers toured border facilities in Texas.

In a Twitter thread, Schatz described overcrowded quarters and a "harsh odor" filling the air, while writing that he spoke with some men through a chain-link fence that said they had been held at the border for more than 40 days.

He also shared a story about one mother with a young daughter who apparently has not been eating. The mother is supposed to travel to New York on Sunday to get her asylum claim adjudicated, but faces several challenges.

Schatz said that he "broke down" afterward, and called out President Trump, whom he blames for creating such a harsh environment at the border.

Read the thread here. Tim O'Donnell

July 13, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence on Friday traveled to two federal migrant detention centers in Texas where he witnessed firsthand the extreme overcrowding migrants have to endure.

Pence said afterward that he had seen evidence of a "system that was overwhelmed." He acknowledged that "the crisis was real" in reference to illegal border crossings and legal asylum claims at the southern border, but he called allegations that detainees were mistreated by Customs and Border Protection "slanderous," arguing that he could see the agents' care and concern. However, footage from Pence's tour of the facility reportedly showed a group of men detained behind a chain link fence shouting that they did not have access to showers.

The vice president later called for Congress to act to end the flow of families coming north from Central America.

Pence was apparently not thrilled with how his visit to the facilities was covered by CNN. He said that the network only focused on his time visiting adult men, forgoing the moments he spent visiting families and children. Tim O'Donnell

July 1, 2019

Despite a ProPublica report detailing how some members of a private Border Patrol Facebook group expressed their displeasure about a congressional visit to Texas migrant detention centers, more than a dozen House members went through with the plan on Monday.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), one of the main targets of the Facebook group, said that she saw and heard harrowing things while touring the El Paso facility.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who toured the facility with Ocasio-Cortez, backed up her colleague's comments.

The House members are reportedly on their way to visit another facility in Clint, Texas, which has drawn attention for its reportedly "unconscionable" living conditions. Tim O'Donnell

June 25, 2019

More than 100 migrant children have reportedly been moved back to a border station in Clint, Texas, which independent monitors described as having "unconscionable" living conditions, after they were initially moved into the care of Health and Human Services.

Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the children at the Clint facility did not have access to soap to wash their hands and were only allowed to shower infrequently, if at all, during multiple weeks of detainment. A Customs and Border Protection official denied the allegations about the lack of crucial amenities like soap and water — which CBP says are continuously available — but did agree with the reports from the monitors that unaccompanied minors should not be living in CBP facilities. "We do not want them in our custody, our facilities are not built for that," the official said in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

CBP reportedly transferred the care of 250 migrant children held in Clint to Health and Human Services to help relieve overflow, but 100 of those children are heading back to the border station because CBP says there are no longer capacity issues, CNN reports. Tim O'Donnell

June 5, 2019

In May, more than 144,000 undocumented immigrants crossed the southern border, Customs and Border Protection officials said Wednesday, the highest monthly total in more than a decade.

This was the third month in a row that more than 100,000 migrants were detained at the border, with 132,000 arrested while entering the country and 12,000 turning themselves in at ports of entry. There has been a surge of migrants arriving from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and in May, most were traveling as family units.

President Trump has said that he will impose tariffs on all Mexican goods starting June 10 "until such a time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP." He is getting pushback from Republicans, but while in Ireland on Wednesday, Trump doubled-down, saying that migrants "are coming up by the millions. Mexico can stop it. They have to stop it. Otherwise, we just won't be able to do business. It's a very simple thing." Catherine Garcia

May 22, 2019

The largest migrant processing facility in the United States has temporarily stopped taking detainees.

Customs and Border Protection announced on Tuesday evening that it had quarantined its busiest center in McAllen, Texas, one day after a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died after being treated for the flu. Medical staff at the center have identified other detainees — living in overcrowded conditions, sleeping on mats behind metal fencing — who have high fevers and other flu-like symptoms. So, the CBP's Rio Grande Valley Sector has suspended intake operations for the time being in an attempt to stop the spread of disease, The Washington Post reports.

The medical situation in McAllen comes at a particularly trying time at the Texas border, in general. To relieve overcrowding, the Department of Homeland Security has begun transporting detainees to other facilities throughout the country — flights carrying hundreds of passengers have already departed for San Diego.

The 16-year-old who died in the detention center was the fifth child to die after being detained by CBP in the last six months, which has sparked outrage and calls for investigations into the facilities by politicians and activists; the concerns likely won't be subdued by news of worsening conditions within the facility. "When we read of individual deaths, we see them as isolated cases," Erika Andiola, the chief advocacy officer at RAICES, an immigrant advocacy group, said in a statement. "But clearly we have a huge systemic problem." Tim O'Donnell

May 21, 2019

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said on Monday night that the Hispanic Caucus — a 38-member congressional caucus chaired by Castro which advocates for issues concerning Latinos in the United States — is turning its focus toward pursuing investigations into the deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody.

The group was stirred to action earlier on Monday after Customs and Border Protection confirmed a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died while in their custody, though the cause is unknown. It was the fifth death of a migrant child detained by CBP in the last six months, The Hill reports — a fact that Castro called "outrageous and unacceptable."

In a statement, Castro wrote that before the first of the five recent deaths, then-CBP Commissioner and current acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan had said no child had died in CBP custody in more than a decade. But now, Castro said, "it is clear that this Administration's policies hurt families and have proven deadly for immigrant families and have proven deadly for immigrant children and their parents." The Trump administration, he added, "owes the American people answers." Tim O'Donnell

March 6, 2019

On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a 97 percent uptick in arrests at the southern border since last year, fueled by a 300 percent increase in migrants detained while traveling with children or families. During the five-month period that ended in February, Border Patrol agents arrested about 280,000 migrants entering the country without authorization, creating what CBP chief Kevin McAleenan called "a border security and a humanitarian crisis." The immigration system "is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point," he added, and the solutions CBP has enacted — including more medical screenings and new facilities to hold families — "are temporary and this situation is not sustainable."

The total number of arrests is significantly lower than in past decades, but the changing demographics of the migrants — families from Central America rather than single men from Mexico — has put a strain on border agencies and migrant-oriented nonprofits. CBP released the data as Trump is taking extraordinary and controversial steps to build a border wall, and before a Senate vote on terminating his declared national emergency at the border. But the vast majority of migrants turn themselves in to border agents, and "a wall would do little to slow migration," The New York Times reports, citing immigration analysts. Peter Weber

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