Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, joined Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York; Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey; Dick Durbin, D-Illinois; Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon; and additional colleagues in sending a July 26 letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan outlining serious concerns regarding the conditions at the southern border that the Trump administration’s policies have exacerbated, and demand the administration immediately answer and remedy several issues the senators observed on their recent trip to the Rio Grande Valley.
In the letter, the senators note that the Office of Inspector General recently found that the detention conditions in CBP facilities are not in compliance with the Flores agreement or Transport, Escort, Detention and Search standards, and “represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained.” The letter outlines the senators’ expectations, specifically the responsibility to ensure that all women, men, and children in the custody of the U.S. government are treated humanely.
The senators requested for the administration to provide immediate answers to issues that have been reported and witnessed firsthand at the Donna Holding Facility, McAllen Border Patrol Station and Ursula Centralized Processing Center, including migrants not being able to communicate with family members while in custody, migrants not being able to engage in basic hygiene, migrants reporting sexual abuse or mistreatment, migrant children not getting enough food to eat and migrants receiving Notices to Appear that were only in English and lacking any address. The senators also demanded answers to the lack of child care and child welfare professionals at the detention facilities they visited, as well as details regarding the medical screening process for detained children. Importantly, the senators highlighted the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center’s model for working with migrant children and families.
The letter is available at bit.ly/2MqW2k3.