Tlaib tears up over migrant detention facilities, Slotkin hopes to draft ‘guts of bipartisan legislation’

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin tours the northern border | Rep. Slotkin office photo

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) talked to the Advance this week about a planned bipartisan trip to the U.S.-Mexico border next week to assess conditions at detention facilities. 

This comes after U.S. Reps. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) were among Democrats who visited facilities and decried both their squalor and the treatment of migrants. U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) said Friday he is joining a trip on Saturday to the U.S.-Mexico border near McAllen and Brownsville, Texas.

Members of Congress, activists decry border camp conditions

On Friday, Tlaib gave emotional testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform, tearing up as she described the death of a migrant 7-year-old in federal care at the southern border.

Rashida Tlaib

“Mr. Speaker, we do have a crisis on our border,” Tlaib said, addressing committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). “It is one of morality. … The [President] Trump administration [is] dead set on sending a hate-filled message that those seeking refuge are not welcome in America.”

Slotkin said Thursday that details of the bipartisan excursion were still in the works, but she hopes to get an up-close view of the border facilities after reports of dangerous overcrowding and health risks posed to immigrants held in temporary housing centers. 

“Why do we continue to see these horrific pictures, hear these horrific stories? Why are people not having access to sanitation and toilets and a shower and adequate health care?” she told the Advance in an interview this week. “If there’s something that’s not happening that requires congressional action, tell us and we will do it.” 

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin tours the northern border | Rep. Slotkin office photo

She stressed the importance of Democrats and Republicans making the trip to the southern border together as the immigration debate continues to polarize lawmakers on Capitol Hill. 

“Part of the reason why I’m doing this as a bipartisan trip is because we can send trip after trip after trip to the border, but until you do something about it and Republicans start providing accountability over this president and his policies, it sometimes feels like spitting in the wind.” 

Slotkin, a member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee who earlier this week visited the U.S. border with Canada, said she’s hoping lawmakers on the delegation will agree on a frame for immigration legislation that actually has a shot. 

“We have scheduled in hours of time down there to actually come up with the guts of bipartisan legislation to deal with some of the problems down there, to actually try to move something forward that’s something both the House and the Senate could agree to,” she said. 

Slotkin visits northern border facilities, plans bipartisan trip to southern border

The trip was being planned as the Trump administration was reportedly planning to launch raids in major U.S. cities starting this weekend in an attempt to deport undocumented immigrants. Trump has made immigration his signature issue heading into 2020 and Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided over how to manage an influx of immigrant families. 

Slotkin acknowledged a sweeping immigration policy overhaul isn’t likely in the current political climate. 

“Do I think we’re going to get comprehensive immigration reform that sews everything into a nice package? Under this president, no. But can we do things at the margins, especially when really horrific scenes that touch everyone are being done in our name? Yes.” 

Advance reporter Derek Robertson contributed to this story.

Robin Bravender
Michigan native Robin Bravender is the DC Bureau Chief for the Newsroom, a consortium of 10 nonprofit news publications, including the Michigan Advance. Previously, Robin was a reporter for Politico, E&E News and Thomson Reuters.

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