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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 caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Jon Stewart urges Congress to help veterans exposed to burn pits House Democrat who's a physician calls on Trump to 'man up' and wear mask 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 SteubeLost cures and innovation, too high a price for Democrats' drug pricing proposals Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs 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 YoungDemocrats, GOP fighting over largest House battlefield in a decade Coordinated federal leadership is needed for recovery of US travel and tourism Alaska may select our next president MORE (R-Alaska) was the only Republican member of the House to vote for the bill.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Judge tosses land management plans after ousting Pendley from role | Trump says he could out-raise Biden with calls to Wall Street, oil execs | Supreme Court to review Trump border wall funding, asylum policies OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' | Court strikes down Obama-era rule targeting methane leaks from public lands drilling | Feds sued over no longer allowing polluters to pay for environmental projects  Pendley says court decision ousting him from BLM has had 'no impact' MORE (D-N.M.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBrown says Biden's first moves as president should be COVID relief, voting rights Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (D-Ohio), and Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichBottom line Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Senate Democrats seek removal of controversial public lands head after nomination withdrawal 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