House passes bill requiring CBP to enact safety, hygiene standards

House passes bill requiring CBP to enact safety, hygiene standards
© Greg Nash

The House passed a Democrat-led bill that would require Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enact safety and hygiene standards for migrants in their custody, in a 233-195 vote on Wednesday. Just one Republican joined Democrats in voting for the measure.  

Under the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act — spearheaded by Rep. Raul RuizRaul RuizHouse Democrat who's a physician calls on Trump to 'man up' and wear mask In Trump response to coronavirus, left sees environmental injustice House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs MORE (D-Calif.) — CBP would be required to conduct health screenings, provide emergency care and ensure access to medication, translators and emergency transportation for immigrants in their care.

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The legislation also looks to ensure clean drinking water, toilets, waste disposal and hygiene products are made available, in addition to implementing nutrition and shelter standards.  

The legislation bars CBP from denying lawmakers access to the facilities, and it directs the agency to provide adequate training for its officers to carry out the new requirements.

The measure includes a number of provisions Latino and progressive lawmakers pushed for when negotiating the $4.6 billion border emergency funding bill that passed ahead of the July 4 recess. Those provisions ultimately didn't make it into the final legislation, which sparked tensions within the House Democratic Caucus.

Supporters of the bill cited recent deaths of migrants being held in U.S. custody and what many have described as inhumane and overcrowded conditions of the facilities where immigrants are held. 

“My bill is an American values-based, basic public health approach to prevent the deaths of children under CBP's custody and responsibility and to develop a professional, humane response to the humanitarian challenges at our border. Why are these humanitarian standards needed, you might ask?" Ruiz said on the floor, adding he believes Congress needs to do more than send additional funding.

"Because when I visited the border I saw open toilets and crowded cells without privacy. Babies who were dirty and didn't have diapers sleeping on cold cement floors. Because these inhumane and unsanitary conditions threaten the mental and physical health of CBP agents because six children have died in the custody and responsibility of CBP.” 

Concerns over reports of unsanitary conditions and a lack of resources have been raised by members from both sides of the aisle calling for action. But numerous Republicans have voiced concerns Congress is failing to address the root of the problem and decrease the number of people attempting to cross the border.  

Rep. Greg SteubeWilliam (Greg) Gregory SteubeGOP lawmakers raise concerns over veterans' access to health care amid pandemic House panel advances police reform bill House lawmakers introduce bill for local chambers of commerce to receive PPP funding MORE (R-Fla.) argued the legislation would “not solve the border crisis and will make the crisis worse.”

“It does nothing to address push and pull factors that drive illegal immigration, including loopholes in our own laws. It does nothing to fix the Flores settlement agreement's guarantee of catch and release for almost all family units; it does nothing to fix the provision in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act; it does not introduce reasonable reforms to our asylum laws,” he said on the floor, arguing it instead implements “burdensome requirements” on overwhelmed CBP facilities.  

The bill was amended at the eleventh hour on the floor to include language "to commend the men and women of U.S. Border Patrol for carrying out their duty during this incredibly challenging humanitarian crisis in a professional manner" after Republicans managed to pass a motion to recommit. 

Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungHillicon Valley: Apple, Google launch virus tracing system | Republican says panel should no longer use Zoom | Lawmakers introduce bill to expand telehealth House lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to expand telehealth services Campaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis MORE (R-Alaska) was the only Republican member of the House to vote for the bill.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHispanic Democrats build capital with big primary wins Senate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer MORE (D-N.M.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities IRS chief pledges to work with Congress on examining tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Ohio), and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Rodney Davis says most important thing White House can do on COVID-19 is give consistent messaging; US new cases surpass 50k for first time Overnight Defense: Navy won't reinstate fired captain | Dems probe use of federal officers in DC | Air Force appoints woman as top noncommissioned officer Dems request watchdog probe use of federal law enforcement in DC during Floyd protests MORE (D-N.M.) introduced companion legislation in the upper chamber. 

The bill faces an unlikely path in the GOP-controlled Senate. 

Rafael Bernal contributed