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Congressman Raul Ruiz

Representing the 36th District of California

House Passes Congressman Ruiz’s Legislation to Prevent Children from Dying at the Border

July 24, 2019
Press Release
The bill requires CBP to conduct medical screenings, meet basic humanitarian standards to address the needs of children and families at the border

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA), the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Democratic leaders announced the passage of H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would establish basic standards of care requiring CBP to meet the humanitarian needs of the children, seniors, women and families in its custody.

H.R. 3239 will help prevent children from dying in CBP custody, protect the health of agents and families, and develop a professional, humane response to the humanitarian challenges at the border. The bill requires CBP to conduct basic health screenings for emergency triage and sets basic humanitarian standards for water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and shelter consistent with basic human dignity and humanitarian norms.

“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. Six children have now died under the custody, and therefore the responsibility, of our federal government,” said Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. “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. I urge the Senate to pass my bill, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, to ensure our treatment of children, women, and families is consistent with our American values and the principles of basic human dignity.”

“The humanitarian crisis that the President’s policies have created at our southern border and in detention facilities across the country is unconscionable, which is why the Democratic-led House took action today to ensure that those held in U.S. custody are not denied their basic human rights,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. “I thank Rep. Ruiz for his hard work on this legislation and for ensuring our nation lives up to the values of our founders. I hope the Senate will consider it without delay, and I call on the President to cease the mistreatment of children and migrant families in U.S. custody.”

“I am deeply proud of Congressman Ruiz and our Democratic colleagues for passing this critical bill through the House. Dr. Ruiz wrote this bill after visiting Lordsburg during a Congressional Hispanic Caucus oversight visit to investigate the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin. Every time we visit the border, CBP facilities, and meet with agents and detainees, we see the desperate need for comprehensive medical care, emergency services, and everyday basics. Jakelin’s death and the many deaths that followed could have been prevented if CBP had adhered to basic standards of care as established in this bill,” said CHC Chairman Joaquin Castro. “I’m grateful for Dr. Ruiz’s leadership to raise the standards of care to keep migrants healthy and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect. I urge our colleagues in the Senate to pass this bill immediately. These standards must become law so that not one more migrant suffers or dies on our watch.”

“We cannot be a nation that separates families or keeps children in cages. We cannot be a nation that denies hygiene products and basic care to refugees. We cannot be a nation that prevents lawyers from reaching their clients or doctors from seeing their patients. But these horrific actions are all occurring in our country because President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda has created a humanitarian crisis at our southern border. Since we cannot trust the Trump administration to treat immigrant children and families with dignity and respect, House Democrats passed legislation to establish humanitarian standards to prevent further cruelty, ” said Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján. “I am proud to support this effort, and I call on my Senate colleagues to pass this critical legislation to force this administration to meet the most basic needs of immigrants and stop the death and suffering of migrants in our care.

 

Background

On Wednesday, July 24th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, by a vote of 233 to 195. The legislation would establish basic standards directing CBP to meet the humanitarian needs of the women, children, families, asylum-seekers, and other individuals in its custody.

The legislation follows months of reports and statements from federal officials demonstrating that CBP facilities are understaffed, unprepared, and underequipped to hold and process the high influx of migrant families and children seeking refuge in the U.S. Within the last eight months, there have been reports of a total of six children who have died while in the custody of the federal government: Jakelin Caal, Felipe Gomez, Juan De Leon Gutierrez, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez, and Darlyn Valle.

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.

The legislation includes standards requiring CBP to meet the humanitarian needs of women, children, and families 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.

The legislation – which is cosponsored by 160 members of the U.S. House of Representatives –has now been referred to the Senate. You can access the full text of the legislation here.