A bipartisan group of U.S. representatives on Friday visited sites along the U.S. Mexico border. Among them was Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, who represents Michigan’s 8th district. Slotkin says her goal for this trip was to “understand the stress on the situation” at the border, and to try to find bipartisan agreement on how to fix what she describes as a broken system.
Congressional members toured a port of entry in Hidalgo, Texas, as well as a holding facility in Donna, Texas, where they spoke to several families seeking asylum. Slotkin says one woman told them she’d paid smugglers $10,000 for help crossing the border and seeking asylum.
“There’s definitely a massive criminal nexus that’s going on that’s making money off of these people and their horrible, horrible situations,” Slotkin said.
The large number of migrants seeking asylum at the southern border is overwhelming the capacity of CBP staff, according to Slotkin. While the facility in Donna did have air conditioning and adequate food for detained migrants, she says not all dentention facilities do. And the staff at these facilities, Slotkin says, isn't adequately trained to be taking care of the large number of people in their custody. And, she adds, it isn't a job they want to be doing.
“The system is just fundamentally broken. And I think it’s important to come as a group together so that we see the same things and we can try and just suck some of the politics out of this issue,” Slotkin said.
The congresswoman acknowledges that is going to be a difficult task in the current political climate, but she says it is the job of Congress to keep trying. Slotkin introduced a bill earlier this month that would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to mandate people detained by CBP have access to adequate food and shelter, including shower facilities and personal care products. Right now, the law only says the agency must provide food and water to those in custody.
“There is no contradiction between keeping ourselves safe, making sure we know who’s coming into our borders and that anyone coming in doesn’t pose a threat, but then also providing for the humanitarian treatment of all people,” Slotkin said.
That bill was passed out of the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday with bipartisan support.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said the group of congressional members visited a facility in McAllen, Texas. They were at a facility in Donna, Texas, which is near McAllen. The post has been corrected above.