A divided House approved a contentious $4.5 billion emergency funding package to address the border crisis Tuesday, under growing pressure to address the Trump administration’s inhumane treatment of migrants. The bill passed largely along party lines in a 230-195 vote, with some progressive Democrats voting in favor after negotiating to include provisions including new health and safety standards for jailed migrants. Four Democrats voted against the bill: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. Last week, the progressive congressmembers issued a statement condemning the bill and calling for the abolition of ICE. The Senate is slated to consider its own border funding measure this week, including President Trump’s original request for more than a billion dollars for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We speak with Renée Feltz, a Democracy Now! correspondent and producer who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention, and the business of detention. Her recent report for Rewire.News is headlined “'Willful Recklessness': Trump Pushes for Indefinite Family Detention.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A divided House approved a contentious $4.5 billion emergency funding package to address the border crisis Tuesday, under growing pressure to address the Trump administration’s inhumane treatment of migrants. The bill passed largely along party lines in a 230-to-195 vote, with some progressive Democrats voting in favor after negotiating to include provisions including new health and safety standards for jailed immigrants. Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington state voted for the bill after pushing for those changes, but she had, quote, “tremendous apprehensions” about giving the Trump administration’s border operations more money. The bill would allocate more than $1 billion for housing and feeding migrants in Border Patrol custody and nearly $3 billion for unaccompanied migrant children in Department of Health and Human Services.
Four Democrats voted against the bill: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. Last week, the progressive congresswomen issued a statement condemning the bill and calling for the abolition of ICE. Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted, quote, “We should not be giving one more dollar to support this President’s deportation force that openly commits human rights abuses and refuses to be held accountable to the American people. Kids and families can’t continue to die & be terrorized.”
The Senate is slated to consider its own border funding measure this week, including President Trump’s original request for more than a billion dollars for Customs and Border Protection and ICE.
AMY GOODMAN: Heidi Altman, with National Immigrant Justice Center, told The New York Times, “The administration chooses to direct the vast majority of funding toward enforcement, and then cries poverty when it comes to diapers and food. It’s a hostage-taking way of engaging in policy,” she said.
Immigrant advocates protested Tuesday in the Senate Rotunda in honor of those who have died in the custody of both agencies, demanding funding cuts, as the Trump administration pushes for more detention space, including for children and families.
We’re joined by two guests. Democracy Now!'s Renée Feltz, correspondent and producer here, who has long reported on the criminalization of immigrants, family detention, and the business of detention. Her recent report for Rewire.News is headlined “'Willful Recklessness’: Trump Pushes for Indefinite Family Detention.” And before we go to our next guest, a doctor who’s a whistleblower, if you can weigh in, Renée, on this bill that was passed, and your experience in Texas, where you just returned from?
RENÉE FELTZ: Yes, Amy. From what we understand, this bill that was passed late yesterday out of the House, which still has to be reconciled with a separate Senate bill, includes some $3 billion to, quote, “shelter and feed migrants.” But as we just heard from Clara Long, these facilities are hardly shelters at the border. And we’re also being told that there was about—that the ICE funding was stripped out of this bill. But it’s been clear, as Pelosi has pushed to pass this, saying it’s for the children, calling it a humanitarian relief bill, that Trump and his interim officials with DHS and ICE have also been pushing hard for this funding. And so, is it really for the children, or is it perhaps for Trump? There’s been a lot of pushback from progressive Democrats to strip some of the key funding that would expand detention in this bill out of it. We saw that push by the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Congressmember Jayapal. But we saw pushback from four of her own freshmen members on this.
So, you know, you mentioned that I was recently down near the border. I went to speak with some of the mothers who were recently released from an ICE detention center in Dilley, Texas. It’s the largest detention center in the country, 2,400 beds. I went there to film it at night, actually, and you could see, with the football stadium lights on it, how massive this facility is. It stretches like through a massive field. And there’s tents on the site. It’s disturbing to look at.
And this is part of why people are pushing back against continuing to fund more of these type of detention facilities. Interestingly, when I was in Texas, I went to San Antonio, and I spoke with many mothers who were released first from a Border Patrol facility and then put in this ICE detention center. And they said that the detention center was better than the Border Patrol facilities. But when I asked one mother what she would change about her time in the ICE detention center, she said, ”Menos tiempos,” “Less time.” So, that’s why people are pushing back on more funding for this type of facility.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Renée, what about the provisions that were put into this bill supposedly to hold these—especially these private facilities more accountable? Is there any teeth to that effort, from what you can tell, or what?
AMY GOODMAN: These are private prisons.
RENÉE FELTZ: That’s right. These are immigrant detention centers. One’s in a former medium-security prison for families. And we’ll hear more about that from Dr. Allen in a minute. But from what I can tell, these are some of the first provisions to try to push for accountability in a measure like this, so some could say that that’s success. But, you know, enforcing that, we’ll have to see how that goes.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s hear from a young mother from Honduras, who described her experience in CBP shelter, as it’s called. She was just released from this place along with her 8-month-old son when you talked to her.
HONDURAN ASYLUM SEEKER: [translated] We—honestly, we were lost in the river. After we crossed the river, we were lost. We were heading back, but a young woman stayed. And honestly, we said, “Thank god,” when the Border Patrol arrived. They gave us water. They gave us some food, a little bit of food, but it was fine.
ARIEL BOONE: [translated] Was there anything missing, like water, more food, vitamins?
HONDURAN ASYLUM SEEKER: [translated] Clothing. We spent weeks without changing our clothes, not showering. We didn’t have money for food or anything. It was tough to get them to give us water and food. They didn’t give us that much. This was when we were with Border Patrol. We were in their custody for two days. We were in Mexico for two days without a shower, with nothing. We have not changed our clothes since we started the journey.
ARIEL BOONE: [translated] Are there any other details you would like to share?
HONDURAN ASYLUM SEEKER: [translated] There was a man who came with us. He brought a baby. The baby was his grandchild. The man was deported, and the U.S. agents kept the baby here, because the baby was just the man’s grandchild. It shouldn’t be this way. We come here fighting for our dreams. We’re suffering. And the man was deported, and the baby was brought here to the U.S. It shouldn’t be this way.
RENÉE FELTZ: So, Amy, I spoke to this woman, who gave me her name, but we didn’t use it, because many of these people are seeking asylum from the countries that they’ve fled and come to the U.S. for. I interviewed her with help from Ariel Boone. What’s interesting to me, to hear voices like this, these are people who are experts, ostensibly, about what the conditions are in these facilities, and the people who are experts are speaking out and saying, “No more family detention. Do not expand this,” as the Trump administration pushes to not only hold more people, but hold them for longer in family detention facilities.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to break, and then we’ll continue with Renée Feltz of Democracy Now!, correspondent and producer, as well as a special guest that we bring you right now, who is named Dr. Scott Allen, a government whistleblower, who was hired in 2014 to inspect facilities where immigrant families are incarcerated. He’s speaking out now on Democracy Now! Stay with us.