Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) sent a letter with 37 other Members of Congress today to acting Secretary of Homeland Security Rand Beers requesting a meeting to discuss dangerous deportation practices, the significant recent increase in migrant deaths, and severely inadequate short-term custody conditions.
Current enforcement policies, many instituted in the 1990s, have pushed migrants into the driest, most remote regions of the desert borderlands and put migrants at risk of inhumane treatment by law enforcement. The letter, available at http://1.usa.gov/1gC37Z2, outlines the major concerns.
In recent years, an alarming number of migrants have died in the U.S. borderlands. Last year, the remains of 463 migrants were found in U.S. territory, the second-highest year for migrant deaths in the past 15 years. In a five-month period, between October 2012 and February of 2013, CBP discovered the remains of 70 human bodies in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.
Migrants are being subjected to inhumane conditions while in short-term Customs and Border Protection custody, including in holding cells at Border Patrol stations, checkpoints, ports of entry, and secondary inspection areas. Complaints of CBP misconduct regularly mention verbal and physical abuse, denial of medical care, inadequate food and water, due process violations, exposure to extreme temperatures, extended use of bright lights, inadequate provision of space or bedding making sleep impossible, extreme overcrowding, and permanent confiscation of personal items including legal documents, medication and personal identification.
Current CBP deportation practices often separate families and potentially place individuals at risk. Specifically, current CBP deportation practices include repatriating Mexican migrants to border cities with extremely high levels of violence and criminal activity. Migrants are frequently returned to Mexico in the middle of the night, when basic services are unavailable and most shelters are closed.
"We have to ask ourselves whether this is how we want to spend our tax dollars," Rep. Grijalva said. "It matters how we enforce our laws, and it matters who's getting harmed in the process. We should never turn a blind eye to needless suffering, especially if it's taking place in the name of security. Members of Congress have a duty to conduct proper oversight, and we believe a meeting is the right opportunity to start making some decisions about how CBP can best conduct its mission going forward."
"I'm extremely concerned about reports of migrants being held in poor conditions at DHS facilities along our borders," Rep. Roybal-Allard said. "Everyone in our government's custody -- citizen or immigrant, documented or undocumented -- deserves to be treated with basic human dignity and respect. I look forward to hearing directly from DHS about what steps the Department is taking in response to these serious allegations."
The full list of signers -- all House Democrats -- is below.
Raúl M. Grijalva
Charles B. Rangel
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Luis V. Gutierrez
Gloria Negrete McLeod
James P. McGovern
Michelle Lujan Grisham
Bobby L. Rush
Donna M. Christensen
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Anna G. Eshoo