House Democrats to hold hearing next week on treatment of migrant children

The House Oversight and Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing next week to hear testimony from Trump administration officials about the separation and treatment of immigrant children at the southern border.

Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBrindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, Elijah Cummings's widow, will run for his House seat Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat MORE (D-Md.) has invited acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan and acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan to testify at a hearing on July 12. Neither have confirmed their appearance, according to the committee. 

“The Trump Administration’s actions at the southern border are grotesque and dehumanizing,” Cummings said in a statement Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

“There seems to be open contempt for the rule of law and for basic human decency. The committee needs to hear directly from the heads of these agencies as soon as possible in light of the almost daily reports of abuse and defiance,” Cummings said, adding that he hoped McAleenan and Morgan would appear “voluntarily” at the hearing.

The announcement closely followed the release of a new Homeland Security inspector general report describing “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention” of immigrant children and adults at facilities in the Rio Grande Valley that require “immediate attention and action.”

The report, issued Tuesday, says that 31 percent of children at the facilities were being held longer than the 72 hours permitted, according to Border Patrol custody data.

The hearing is expected to focus on reports of unaccompanied children being held in overcrowded and dirty facilities in Clint, Texas, and other parts of the country, as well as the newly issued inspector general report. 

A cadre of Democratic lawmakers visited a border facility in Clint on Tuesday to survey the conditions and investigate reports of mistreatment of migrants.

Cummings has also sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergThere are poor ideas, bad ones and Facebook's Libra Facebook announces new payment service Computer software pioneer John McAfee rips Facebook's Libra project MORE requesting information related to the committee’s investigation into a report that Border Patrol agents used a secret Facebook group to mock immigrants and members of Congress and post racist and sexist content. The hearing next Friday is also expected to focus on the Facebook posts.

In a letter to the acting Homeland Security chief on Tuesday, Cummings said he received a letter from McAleenan’s staff requesting a separate panel for the hearing but suggesting he may not be able to appear on July 12. Cummings had initially requested that he testify on June 28.

“To address your staff’s request on panel structure, the Committee will allow you and Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan to testify on your own panel for this hearing,” Cummings wrote. The chairman refused to postpone the hearing in light of recent “troubling revelations” about the conditions at migrant facilities.

“As Acting Secretary, you lead the agency responsible for these actions and these conditions, and your testimony is critical to the Committee’s review,” Cummings wrote.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

In the separate letter to Zuckerberg, Cummings asked that Facebook preserve “all documents, communications and other data” related to the Facebook group known as “I’m 10-15.” According to a new report from ProPublica, current and former border agents who are members of the secret Facebook group posted derogatory comments about migrants and Latino members of Congress.

Cummings also asked the Facebook CEO to produce by July 9 “all postings and comments” including pictures and deleted content related to the group from the date the group was created to present day. The Facebook group is said to be three years old.

Updated at 4:35 p.m.