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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.”