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 RuizCBO: Fix backed by doctors for surprise medical bills would cost billions Democrat Raul Ruiz challenged by Republican with the same name in California race House to vote on stopgap spending measure to prevent shutdown 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 offer new election security measure VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules Gun epidemic is personal for lawmakers touched by violence 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 YoungHundreds turn out for London's first transgender equality march The Hill's Morning Report — The wall problem confronting Dems and the latest on Dorian House passes bill requiring CBP to enact safety, hygiene standards MORE (R-Alaska) was the only Republican member of the House to vote for the bill.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration Democratic senators condemn Trump for calling on China to investigate Bidens Green groups line up behind Markey ahead of looming Kennedy fight MORE (D-N.M.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownCritics pounce as Facebook crypto project stumbles Trump administration blocked consumer watchdog from public service loan forgiveness program: report Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 MORE (D-Ohio), and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Commerce Department to develop stats on income inequality Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games 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