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house Bill H.R. 3239

Should There Be Minimum Hygiene, Nutrition & Shelter Standards for Homeland Security Detention Facilities?

Argument in favor

Customs and Border Protection’s migrant detention facilities aren’t meeting minimum hygiene, nutrition and shelter standards. This is making detainees sick — and in 10 cases so far, has led to death. By setting standards for CBP facilities, this bill would help ensure migrants’ physical and mental health.

Dori's Opinion
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07/23/2019
I am honestly ashamed of being an American because of our treatment of detainees. This is not who we are.
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jimK's Opinion
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07/24/2019
It is unethical, immoral and possibly illegal to not have livable standards and standards for care of people our government chooses to detain.
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Kodiwodi's Opinion
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07/23/2019
Just like I think there should be minimum ethical, moral and legal standards for CBP and ICE and all government personnel and legislators who have anything to do with immigration and asylum seekers.
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Argument opposed

Customs and Border Protection already has its own guidelines that set standards for its facilities and the best way to improve conditions is to ensure compliance with existing standards, rather than increasing standards for an already heavily burdened agency. Most CBP agents do all they can, but the immigration system is simply overwhelmed.

Randy's Opinion
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07/24/2019
No. We don’t owe these trespassers anything. They show up empty handed expecting the “rich” American to supply everything to them. Mexico Aided and Abetted them enough to stay alive and pointed them in the direction of US! Give them bus fare and deport them ASAP.!!! THANKS FOR THE HELP MEXICO👎!!!
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ProudAmerican's Opinion
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07/24/2019
Migrants need to come LEGALLY. If migrants don’t like our detention facilities, they need to remember that they did it to themselves. They can leave anytime they want, just not northbound. I’m sick of my hard earned tax dollars being wasted on people who can’t even respect our laws. Pass asylum, border security, and immigration reform legislation NOW. American is sick and tired of the inaction of the Democrat Party!!!
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Gregory's Opinion
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07/24/2019
Deport all illegal immigrants and the build the wall and fix the asylum problem or get voted out of office by the american people. WIN Win win 2020
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed July 25th, 2019
    Roll Call Vote 233 Yea / 195 Nay
    IntroducedJune 12th, 2019

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What is House Bill H.R. 3239?

This bill — the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act — would require all individuals in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody to receive an initial medical screening and set certain minimum standards of hygiene, nutrition, and shelter that CBP must meet. A breakdown of its various provisions can be found below.

Specifically, this bill calls on the CBP to: 

  • Provide standardized health assessments conducted by trained and certified health professionals;
  • Ensure access to medical equipment and transport; 
  • Provide humane living conditions, and
  • Meet the water, nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation needs of individuals in its custody.

It would also require CBP to conduct health screenings with translators less than 12 hours after migrant adults are initially detained. For those considered more vulnerable (including children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with serious medical conditions such as HIV), these screenings would be required under three hours after the initial detainment. The health screenings would include an interview with the migrant, a psychological exam and screenings for vital signs like pulse, temperature, blood pressure, and oxygen levels.

Additionally, CBP would need to ensure that victims of assault and sexual abuse receive psychological care and that the physical and mental health of LGBTQ migrants is protected.

AMENDMENT

Impact

Migrant crisis; unauthorized immigrants to the U.S.; CBP; CBP migrant detention facilities; and conditions at CBP migrant detention facilities.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3239

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) introduced this bill to require medical screenings for all individuals in CBP custody and set minimum hygiene, nutrition and shelter standards at CBP facilities that “are consistent with the humanitarian principles that ensure the basic conditions for a life with dignity.” In a press release upon introducing this bill, Rep. Ruiz said

“The border patrol facility I saw in Lordsburg was under-staffed, underequipped, and unprepared to care for the people in its custody – particularly children. This legislation makes crystal clear that the United States has a responsibility to meet basic humanitarian standards of care for individuals in our custody. We must address the real crisis at our border – one that has already taken the lives of two young children – and recognize the essential human dignity of all people. I am confident that the steps identified in this resolution will help save children’s lives.”

After this bill passed his committee, House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said

"Treating individuals in CBP custody with basic standards of human decency is the very least that we can do, and it is outrageous that this Administration needs Congress to act before it will do the right thing. We have been confronted with the images of too many children and families squeezed into overcrowded and unsanitary CBP facilities, making us all witnesses to the suffering and deaths of these individuals being held by the U.S. government.There is nothing we can do to bring them back, but we can help make certain that no other child or parent in CBP custody dies for lack of an appropriate medical screening or access to medical care. I commend Congressman Ruiz for his tireless work in introducing the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in CBP Custody Act, and am proud to send this critical bill to the full House for passage."

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) expressed opposition to this bill at its committee markup

“As administration officials have been saying for months, the current migration flow and resulting humanitarian crisis has overwhelmed the government’s ability to adequately respond… With the undeniable evidence of this crisis now firmly in the public spotlight, I was hopeful we would finally see a serious effort by Democrats to end the crisis. Instead, they have decided to markup H.R. 3239, a bill that will do absolutely nothing to address the root causes of the crisis, and, in fact, will make it worse. As the system was intended to work, individuals encountered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remain in CBP custody for short periods of time to complete processing, generally no more than 72 hours. Those individuals are then transferred—adults enter Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, family units are released into American communities, and children are entrusted to Health and Human Services (HHS) care. The enormous and unprecedented numbers of migrants crossing, however, has overwhelmed the system. ICE detention and HHS shelters are full. CBP is forced to release virtually all family units as soon as the processing stage is completed. In short, what administration officials have been warning of has come true — the system has broken — but, are we marking up a bill to fix legal loopholes incentivizing mass illegal migration? No. We are marking up the ‘Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act,’ a bill with a nice name, but that is actually unworkable. It would significantly and severely impact CBP, but my colleagues haven’t bothered to talk to the agency about its effects.” 

Rep. Collins continued, arguing that while CBP should comply with its custodial care requirements, this bill would create burdensome additional medical care requirements that would overwhelm the agency’s already-stretched resources beyond what’s reasonable: 

“To be clear, CBP should comply with the custodial care requirements set out in their Transducer Electronic Data Sheets standards and should treat all detainees with respect. How is the one-size-fits-all approach of this bill completely unworkable? The requirements of H.R. 3239 apply to hundreds of CBP facilities — no matter how big or small, urban or remote, or even how busy or idle. For instance, even though my colleagues keep offering anecdotes from along the southern border, this bill would apply to a very busy airport like Hartsfield Jackson, which sees millions of passengers a year; or an extremely remote port of entry like at Poker Creek, Alaska, which is only open for a few months each year; or a Border Patrol substation like Big Bend, Texas, which normally houses no more than 10 detainees per day; or an isolated forward operating base like Camp Bounds, Arizona; or a seaport like Port Ferry, Washington; or even the Truth or Consequences Border Patrol checkpoint in New Mexico. Am I making my point? As the men and women of CBP are doing everything they possibly can to confront the crisis, H.R. 3239 would impose burdensome and often impossible standards of care onto those facilities. In addition to an initial medical screening of all migrants entering CBP custody, H.R. 3239 would require CBP to provide additional, free — for the alien — medical services. The bill states, where practicable, CBP shall have on site, in addition to licensed medical professionals they already have to conduct medical screenings, ‘licensed emergency care professionals, specialty physicians (including physicians specializing in pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, geriatric medicine, internal medicine, and infectious diseases), nurse practitioners, other nurses, physician assistants, licensed social workers, mental health professionals, public health professionals, dieticians, interpreters, and chaperones.’ If impracticable to have them onsite, CBP must have them on call. Our Border Patrol should be out interdicting narcotics, preventing illegal immigration and stopping child trafficking, not setting up full-service hospitals at every single facility." 

Finally, Rep. Collins argued that this bill would cripple CBP’s ability to respond to increases in migration to the U.S. and allow smugglers to use children as a “loophole” to allow adults entry into the U.S. as adult relatives of minors: 

“The bill would also prevent CBP from housing individuals outside in temporary facilities, and require all facilities to be climate controlled, while simultaneously limiting the number of people a CBP processing facility can house. CBP will therefore be forced to release even more people into the U.S. interior, since this bill would limit its ability to respond to migrant surges. The bill also mandates the provision of private shower facilities, which may not be appropriate in a custodial setting, and it even mandates — I kid you not — a gender-specific toilet-to-detainee ratio. Perhaps the worst part about this bill is it increases the incentive to exploit children to gain entry into the United States. Smugglers know migrants will be released into the U.S. interior if they bring a child, because of a legal loophole created by the Flores settlement agreement. The loophole currently only applies to parents or legal guardians. DHS continues to see adults fraudulently posing as a child’s parent or legal guardian, to use the child as a ‘passport’ into the United States. This bill rips the existing loophole open even further. Instead of only benefiting parents and legal guardians, this bill would extend it to mere ‘adult relatives’ of a child. H.R. 3239 is unworkable, will do nothing to address the border crisis and increases the likelihood children will be trafficked. I urge my colleagues to oppose this misguided, dangerous bill.”

This bill passed the House Judiciary Committee by an 18-13 vote with the support of 153 Democratic House cosponsors. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) with two Democratic Senate cosponsors, has not yet seen committee action.


Of NoteApprehensions at the Southern border of unauthorized immigrants and asylum-seekers have spiked in the last year, with May 2019 marking the highest monthly total since 2006 at 132,880 apprehensions. Of those detained, the proportion of family units and unaccompanied minors are at all-time highs, burdening a detention system designed for single males who historically made up the vast majority of those apprehended at the Southern border. 

After it became apparent that DHS accounts funding detention facilities would run out of money before the end of the fiscal year, Congress passed a bipartisan $4.59 billion emergency funding package to provide for additional facilities to prevent overcrowding, provide basic necessities and healthcare to detained migrants, and speed up the processing of immigration cases. President Trump signed it into law on June 30th

This bill is a response to the Trump administration’s emphasis on putting unauthorized immigrants in detention centers. However, the facilities in question and their condition are merely continuations of policies that existed in previous administrations, including the Obama administration which faced a similar spike in apprehensions of unaccompanied minors. In a July 2019 News Hour interview with Judy Woodruff, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson — who held that position in the Obama administration — explained, “[F]irst, the reality for these migrants, for these people from Central America is worse. It's worse in Central America.” Johnson attributed poor conditions in facilities to the increased migration numbers, rather than to malicious intent by the Trump administration. 

To date, 10 people (including three children and seven adults) have died in CBP custody over the past nine months, some of whom required medical care.

Nationally, there are over 200 immigrant detention facilities, with a record-high 49,000 beds (bed capacity was a point of contention in the bipartisan spending agreement to avoid a government shutdown in February 2019). Allegations of overcrowding, poor conditions, human rights violations, inadequate health services, usage of slave labor and abuse of solitary confinement have been levied against many of these facilities by advocates, detainees, and human rights watchdog groups. 

Leah Chavla, an international human rights lawyer and policy adviser at the Women's Refugee Commission, has previously noted that CBP has its own guidelines in place governing the conditions and resources it has to provide to children and other migrants in the agency’s custody. However, these guidelines aren’t binding. With this in mind, Chavla has previously said that “[i]t’s important to have a critical look at what’s going on and how the guidelines can be made binding.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: U.S. Customs & Border Protection via Flickr / Public Domain)

AKA

Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act

Official Title

Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act

    I am honestly ashamed of being an American because of our treatment of detainees. This is not who we are.
    Like (145)
    Follow
    Share
    No. We don’t owe these trespassers anything. They show up empty handed expecting the “rich” American to supply everything to them. Mexico Aided and Abetted them enough to stay alive and pointed them in the direction of US! Give them bus fare and deport them ASAP.!!! THANKS FOR THE HELP MEXICO👎!!!
    Like (5)
    Follow
    Share
    It is unethical, immoral and possibly illegal to not have livable standards and standards for care of people our government chooses to detain.
    Like (137)
    Follow
    Share
    Just like I think there should be minimum ethical, moral and legal standards for CBP and ICE and all government personnel and legislators who have anything to do with immigration and asylum seekers.
    Like (94)
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    How we treat people, good or bad, says more about us than about them. They are human beings. If we treat them as less we dehumanize ourselves as well.
    Like (65)
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    Seriously? How many laws are they breaking with food sanitation and safety as well as fire code compliance?
    Like (53)
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    This shouldn’t even be a question. Treat them like the humans they are.
    Like (49)
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    These desperate people have committed NO crime. Under our laws, they must cross the US border in order to apply for asylum. The Republicans vicious treatment of these families is a crime against humanity and will be recorded as a shameful time in our history. Silence is complicity!
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    You cannot be a moral and ethical person and even consider voting no on this! Death Row inmates are treated better! For shame! You are a truly awful person to vote no on this.
    Like (34)
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    Without a doubt the detention centers need to be hygienic and held to standards for everyone’s safety. If they can’t adhere to a standard of dignity for asylum seekers they need to be closed down ASAP!
    Like (32)
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    Every person in the ‘custody’ of this country should at the very least receive the amenities any one of us would expect to be afforded in a similar position in any other country. Period.
    Like (28)
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    Just like our Jails, and prisons; detention centers should also have common sense standards.
    Like (27)
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    Can this seriously be a question? What kind of people are we if we have to ask if people fleeing from violence should be met with cruelty? We should be ashamed that the service simple human treatment has to be codified by law.
    Like (26)
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    What a stupid question. Of course they should be provided with food, water, access to toilets and showers. These are human beings and should be treated as such. They're not animals and shouldn't be in cages.
    Like (25)
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    Yes. People need a standard of living. They aren't animals
    Like (25)
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    Human ,compassion dignity, basic hygiene all are very much needed! These are people who were suffering in their countries and NOW ARE SUFFERING in our hands.
    Like (22)
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    This bill should be passed. It is evident to anyone who is paying the slightest attention that our country is not living up to humane standards when it comes to the detention of asylum seekers. These people have not violated any law because it is legal under both US and international law to seek asylum. Yet we are imprisoning these men, women and children under cruel, inhumane and dangerous conditions. We don't treat mass murderers this poorly. Stop blaming the victims of this abuse who are simply fleeing to save their lives - something any of us would do were we faced with the same dangers. Stop using them to achieve a political goal and attack democrats. They have the right to seek asylum here and it is the responsibility of every American to insure that we provide compassionate care to all who enter our country. We disgrace ourselves and our nation when we fail to do so. If we do not correct this now, we no longer deserve to be called the greatest nation on earth.
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    Everyone has already had enough of the horrible living conditions in these camps. I’m glad to see our congress trying to fix these issues that Trump and his racist administration has done.
    Like (19)
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    Yes. Set standards for humane conditions.
    Like (18)
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    Of course! These people have LEGALLY applied for asylum and instead of being treated with kindness and empathy we treat them worse than stray dogs! Forget the Congress people doing inspections- send in the SPCA, maybe they'll get something done.
    Like (18)
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    Why is this even up for debate? Of course, we should offer humane treatment to these people. What kind of country are you turning America into?
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