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 RuizHispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Lawmakers postpone foreign travel over coronavirus Hispanic Democrats demand flu vaccines for detained migrants 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 SteubeTop conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill House committee advances medical marijuana bills for veterans Parties clash as impeachment articles move closer to House vote 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 YoungDon Young dismissed 'beer virus,' told seniors to 'go forth with everyday activities' Pelosi stands firm amid calls to close Capitol Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' MORE (R-Alaska) was the only Republican member of the House to vote for the bill.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Democrats press Pompeo to help Americans stranded abroad amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.M.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDemocrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Lawmakers press IRS to get coronavirus checks to seniors Democrats press Mnuchin to defend T coronavirus stimulus IG MORE (D-Ohio), and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichDemocrats call for pollution reduction requirements in any aid for airlines, cruises Coronavirus takes toll on Capitol Hill GOP chairman cancels Hunter Biden-related subpoena vote 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