Despite near-unanimous opposition from Republicans, the House passed a bill to improve conditions at detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday to ensure adequate health and safety condition at detention facilities run by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) night by a 233-195 vote.
The Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act sets forth minimum standards for CBP facilities, including requiring health screenings and basic needs such as enough food and water for detainees.
Democrats unanimously supported the legislation, while 194 out of 195 Republicans voted against it. Rep. Don Young of Alaska was the sole Republican who supported the bill.
"When I visited the CBP detention facilities at our border, I saw dirty, inhumane conditions that threatened the health of infants, toddlers, and pregnant women," Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), the bill's lead sponsor, said before the bill passed, according to KESQ. "Six children have now died under the custody, and therefore the responsibility, of our federal government."
"Today's vote brings us closer than ever to preventing the deaths of children and restoring humanity to our treatment of children and families seeking asylum," Ruiz, a former emergency room doctor, added.
Ruiz's legislation would also require adequate space to hold detainees, including enough space for detainees to sleep. To ensure a safe environment, the bill would require proper hand-washing stations, clean toilets, and hygiene products.
The conditions at border detention facilities have made headlines for months for being woefully inadequate. During a recent trip to the border, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) "choked back tears" as he spoke with migrants who were traumatized and hungry.
In early July, Federal inspectors warned of overcrowding conditions including one case where migrants "were held in standing room only conditions for a week," and at another location, "some single adults were held more than a month in overcrowded cells."
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) spoke to women who were forced to drink water out of a toilet when she visited a detention facility in late June.
In June, Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, a board-certified physician, visited child detention facilities to check on the condition of hundreds of infants, toddlers, and children. She compared the conditions to "torture facilities" after seeing children sleeping on cold concrete floors and lacking adequate food, and teen mothers unable to wash their infants' bottles.
Many of the children and families in these facilities are seeking asylum in the United States, fleeing conditions of violence and dire poverty, and hoping for a safe refuge.
Ruiz's legislation to improve conditions at these detention facilities now moves to the Senate where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will decide its fate.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.