Congress

From the office of Rep. Val Demings 

Funding package for humanitarian assistance on the border includes new standards for care, and new oversight and transparency provisions

Rep. Val Demings (FL-10), a member of the Homeland Security Committee, voted for a $4.5 billion emergency spending package to address the humanitarian crisis on the border, where children have been separated from their guardians and held in inhumane, cruel, and unsafe conditions due to the President’s reckless agenda.

Said Rep. Demings, “I believe in an America where we follow the law and treat children with dignity and respect. This administration’s criminalization of legal asylum seekers and caging of young children in filthy conditions are totally unacceptable. We are better than this, and we must hold the administration accountable. We are also going to do everything possible to improve conditions for the children and refugees in our custody.

“I voted for this legislation because it requires an immediate improvement in treatment for the children we have imprisoned and abused. It will require that our government immediately provide appropriate food, hygiene items, medical care, and legal representation in a safe and sanitary environment. It also requires the administration to immediately open the doors of these facilities to Congressional oversight and provide regular reports on the children in their care.”

Background

The House funding bill now needs to be reconciled with the Senate funding bill to come up with final legislation. The $4.5 billion House spending bill, for which Rep. Demings voted, includes the following:

Improved Conditions:

  • Strict new conditions on influx shelters which house children, by mandating compliance with requirements set forth in the Flores settlement, which demands “safe and sanitary conditions.”
  • New requirements that Customs and Border Protection establish plans, standards, and protocols for medical care and medical emergencies; nutrition, hygiene, and facilities; and personnel training to ensure the health and safety of children and adults in custody.
  • A new limit of 90 days for any unaccompanied child to spend at an influx shelter unless the Secretary submits written notification to Congress.

Improved Accountability:

  • A new requirement that any deaths of children in U.S. custody must be reported within 24 hours.
  • A new requirement for monthly reporting on unaccompanied children separated from their families
  • A new requirement that facilities can be inspected at any time, without notice.
    • Previously, Members of Congress have been denied access to the facilities.
  • Doubled funding for facility inspections.
  • No funding for a border wall or barriers, or for ICE detention beds; and requirements that funding must be spent as allocated.
  • New accountability rules which require the replacement of contractors who fail to meet enhanced standards.

Improved Process:

  • New permissions allowing Health and Human Services officials to represent unaccompanied children
  • New requirements that translation services be made available to all individuals.

Programs to Reduce Migrant Flow

  • New requirements that foreign assistance for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador be spent there, rather than removed as the administration has proposed. This funding will help stabilize and prevent additional migration from these countries.

Funding in the bill includes:

  • $934.5 million for processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items, blankets, medical services, and safe transportation;
  • $866 million to reduce reliance on influx shelters to house children;
  • $200 million for a commission to process migrant families and children and hear asylum claims, helping to work through the backlog of cases.
  • $100 million for legal services for unaccompanied children, child advocates, and post-release services;
  • $60 million to assist jurisdictions experiencing a significant influx of migrants and non-profit organizations serving those communities;
  • $20 million for Alternatives to Detention;
  • $15 million for the Legal Orientation Program to educate migrants about their rights and legal proceedings; and
  • $9 million to speed up placement of children with sponsors and manage their cases.

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