Slotkin bill passes mandating water and basic needs for detained migrants

Immigration rights protest
Hundreds of immigrant rights advocates and others participate in rally and and demonstration at the Federal Building in lower Manhattan against the Trump administration's policy that enables federal agents to take migrant children away from their parents at the border on June 1, 2018 in New York. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Less than a week after taking a bipartisan trip to the southern border, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) saw her legislation requiring basic necessities for migrants in detention camps pass the U.S. House.

McAllen Border Station | U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin photo

There’s been an outcry from human rights activists and Democratic members of Congress who visited detention facilities in which migrants were forced to drink out of toilets and children didn’t have access to beds or soap.

“This would not be allowed as a kennel for dogs,” said U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) at a Capitol Hill hearing this month. “It’s unacceptable, and it has to change. We don’t treat human beings like that.”

The chamber on Thursday passed H.R. 3670 on a bipartisan voice vote, Slotkin’s office confirmed. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St.Joseph) was a co-sponsor. He also attended the “Problem Solvers Caucus” border trip, along with U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden), who surprised politicos this week by announcing his retirement in 2020.

“We can protect our country and treat migrants humanely — those things aren’t mutually exclusive, and I’m proud that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle joined me in passing this bill and sending that message,” Slotkin said. “The Short-Term Detention Standards Act is a bipartisan bill that expands requirements under law to ensure migrants in detention receive the full range of basic necessities they are too often going without, and I’m so proud to see it pass the House today.”

Slotkin: Border camps ‘a tragedy … for every single link in the chain’

The bill stipulates that U.S. Customs and Border Protection “must provide migrants access to appropriate temporary shelters with bathroom and shower facilities, water, appropriate nutrition, hygiene, personal grooming items and sanitation needs,” Slotkin’s office said.

Slotkin, a member of the U.S. Homeland Security Committee, talked to the Advance about the Short-Term Detention Standards Act upon her return from the Texas-Mexico border. The former Pentagon official noted that under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, only “adequate access to food and water” is required to be provided to migrants in short-term U.S. custody.

Slotkin said that she “simply used the humanitarian standards that we use in our Bureau of Prisons when we deal with prisoners, and in the Geneva Convention when we deal with prisoners of war.”

The congresswoman also visited this month a U.S.-Canadian crossing and talked with border officials. Slotkin has said she wants a comprehensive immigration solution.

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“To be clear: providing adequate nutrition, hygiene and bathroom facilities to migrant children in our care is the bare minimum of what we must do, and there is so much more we must do to alleviate the crisis at our Southern border, including addressing our broken immigration system,” she said.

Upton called the legislation “common sense.”

Rep. Fred Upton listens to a CBP agent at a border crossing point in the Rio Grande Valley | Rep. Upton photo

“As I said last week, our visit to the border was extremely sobering and the situation will clearly continue to get worse if we do not take action,” Upton said. “Our system is overwhelmed, period. I know the border patrol agents we talked to are committed to working hard and doing the best they can to address the enormous task before them. I believe this legislation is simply common sense and ensures those in our nation’s care receive appropriate and humane treatment.”

The Democratic-led U.S. House shelved plans to take up more sweeping legislation that would have overhauled the President Trump administration’s migrant detention policies, Politico reported. That bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), had reportedly divided the caucus.

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters that leadership needs to handle issues “in a thoughtful way.”

Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.


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