Congressman Raul Ruiz: Conditions for Migrants in CBP Custody a “Breeding Ground for a Flu Outbreak”
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) is calling attention to the ongoing inhumane treatment of children and adults under Customs and Border Protection (CBP) care. Six migrant children have died – three from flu-related illness – while in CBP custody in the last year. Sunday, December 8, 2019 marks one year since Jakeline Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old in CBP custody, died because she did not have appropriate access to medical care.
“Following Jakeline’s death, I visited the place where she had been held, and I was horrified by the conditions I witnessed,” said Dr. Ruiz (D-CA). “Facilities so crowded you can’t even see the floor – people coughing on one another. And there wasn’t appropriate access to sanitation, or places to wash their hands and bathe. Such conditions create a breeding ground for a flu outbreak.”
Speaking this week at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee entitled, “Flu Season: U.S. Public Health Preparedness and Response,” Dr. Ruiz called for initial health screenings and providing humane standards of care for children, elderly, and others in CBP custody including administering the flu vaccine.
In July, the House passed Dr. Ruiz’s bill, H.R. 3239 the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, which would establish basic standards of care requiring CBP to meet the humanitarian needs of the individuals in its custody.
Overcrowded processing centers, freezing temperatures, individuals sleeping on the floors, a lack of private bathrooms, and the arbitrary confiscation of medications are just some of the inhumane conditions and practices that are putting families and children at risk. These inhumane conditions also create a breeding ground for a flu outbreak.
H.R. 3239 the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act includes standards requiring CBP to meet the humanitarian needs of individuals at the border, including:
- Health Screening and Emergency Care – Every person in CBP custody will receive a health screening by a medical professional to identify acute conditions and high-risk vulnerabilities. Each facility must maintain personnel and equipment necessary to conduct health screenings and provide emergency care, including basic medication, emergency transportation, and interpreters.
- Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Standards – Every person in CBP custody will have undeterred access to drinking water; private, safe, clean, and reliable toilets with proper waste disposal; a handwashing station; and basic personal hygiene products.
- Nutrition Standards – Every person in CBP custody will receive the medically appropriate number of calories for age and weight to height ratio, including special diets for babies, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as the elderly and ill.
- Shelter Standards – The holding facilities must maintain specific shelter and environmental standards, such as minimum space requirements, specified temperature ranges, and appropriate bedding.
- Coordination and Surge Capacity – CBP will enter into Memoranda of Understanding with appropriate federal agencies to address these needs by using a coordinated approach.
- Training – CBP will provide appropriate training for officers to implement the requirements set forth in this legislation.