Four days after the death of a migrant girl in federal custody, multiple members of Congress called the conditions at immigration holding facilities across the country unacceptable.
“There’s a lack of training, lack of equipment, and all of that adds up to bad priorities,” said U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“It’s apparently clear that there needs to be an independent investigation,” said U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján, a democrat who represents northern New Mexico.
Castro called for Kevin McAleenan, the commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, to resign.
Two weeks ago, McAleenan testified to Congress about a crisis at the border without mentioning the death of seven-year-old Jakelin Caal, who migrated from Guatemala and died in the custody of his department.
“If I was head of (the Department of Homeland Security), I would ask him to step down,” Castro said.
“When I saw in this facility is unbelievable,” said U.S. Representative Al Green, a democrat from Houston. “The (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) would not allow animals to be treated the way human beings are being treated in this facility.”
U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz, a medical doctor and democrat from Texas, said the facilities were overcrowded. He also said children were mixed with adults and that many of the migrants did not have privacy to use the bathroom.
“There are some really serious, systemic obstacles and problems and failures in the system to provide the care that a child so lovingly deserves when they are in our custody,” Ruiz said.
ABC-7 asked multiple members of Congress whether border patrol agents acted negligently before Caal died.
“That’s very difficult to say,” said Rep. Ruiz. “At this point, without the autopsy and without the level of investigation needed, I cannot say whether that was the case.”
“I don’t want to pass judgment onto them at this time,” said Rep. Green. “But I do want to say this, I believe we have to staff up. We’ve got to get better equipment and we’ve got to understand we’re dealing with the humanitarian crisis.”
“You know, I’m going to let an investigation take place before I make any judgment like that,” said U.S. Representative-Elect Veronica Escobar from El Paso.