July 02, 2019

Udall: We Must Treat Children, Families, and All Asylum Seekers With Dignity, Care, Humanity

Albuquerque, N.M. -- Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall issued the following statement: 

The images and reports we have heard and seen at the border and in government facilities are horrifying, heartbreaking and appalling. In the United States of America, children and families seeking asylum at our borders must be treated humanely – with basic human needs met, such as food, clean water, sanitation, clean clothes – and they must be treated with dignity and care for their health and safety. To tolerate anything less is to tolerate the degradation of our values as a nation.

What we are seeing at the border is NOT a national security crisis, like the Trump administration says it is. Treating these innocent children and families like they are criminals does violence to everything we stand for in New Mexico. I have visited with asylum seekers at the border in New Mexico. Let me tell you: those arriving at our borders are fleeing horrific violence and danger in their home countries. They are coming to the United States to seek safety and a better life for their children. We must see these people with the same eyes that we would see a member of our own family or community. We must understand that no mother or father would voluntarily choose to embark on such a dangerous journey with their children – unless they felt they had no other choice.

I condemn the Trump administration’s neglect and mistreatment of babies, children, and families at border facilities. I believe these inhumane conditions are legally indefensible and morally unconscionable.

The Trump administration’s degrading, hostile, and xenophobic immigration agenda is causing pain and suffering. It is straining New Mexico communities and endangering innocent children and families. I am fighting hard to hold the Trump administration accountable for its utter failure and refusal to treat asylum seekers and immigrants with care, dignity and respect. And I am fighting to address the root causes of this crisis: I have introduced legislation to help improve conditions in Central America so that these families don’t feel they need to come to the United States to find safety and security.

I voted for both the House and Senate border assistance packages, because I believe this assistance will, on balance, benefit New Mexico communities and immigrant children families, and provide important resources to improve humanitarian conditions at the border. Over ½ the money in the bill, $2.9 billion dollars, is for the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of unaccompanied minors from DHS before releasing them to family members or other sponsors and will allow us to avoid repetition of what we discovered at the Clint Border Patrol station.

The supplemental funding also includes $30 million in funding I fought for, with the New Mexico delegation, to reimburse local communities and organizations in New Mexico and elsewhere that have stepped up to assist asylum seekers. These New Mexico communities, organizations, and volunteers have inspired all of us. They have shown the best of New Mexico – stepping up to help those in need. But they need our help, and urgently. This funding is badly needed.

Democrats secured critical oversight and transparency provisions in this bill. It prohibits any DHS funding in the bill from being used for any other purpose than what it was appropriated for. The money cannot be used for new ICE detention beds. Or for the president’s border wall. It creates new and better standards for HHS influx facilities, and requires CBP processing facilities to meet higher standards for the care of asylum seekers.

This is not a perfect bill, and I would have rather seen the House legislation passed. But this assistance is urgently needed. And improving conditions at these facilities is an emergency priority. This bill does that – even as Republicans would have preferred to make no changes whatsoever to impose stricter and better standards.

I will keep fighting hard to hold the Trump administration accountable for its treatment of children under its care.

Last year, I championed measures to improve transparency and the quality of care for migrant children in federal custody, and ensure their physical, mental, and emotional health.

I continue to call for oversight hearings in Congress to hold the administration accountable, and require CBP to answer for its treatment of migrants.

I am committed to fighting for humane immigration policies that reflect New Mexico values. I believe we need comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for Dreamers and immigrants living and working in our communities.

I am also an original co-sponsor of the Keep Families Together Act, which would prevent the Department of Homeland Security from taking children from their parents at the border. As well as a cosponsor of the Fair Day in Court for Kids Act, which would require the government to appoint counsel to unaccompanied children.

And a cosponsor of the Human Enforcement and Legal Protections (HELP) for Separated Children Act to protect the safety and wellbeing of minor children who have been left alone after their parents have been arrested or detained by U.S. immigration authorities.

And I believe that the U.S. should address the root causes of migration through engagement and diplomacy with Central American countries. I support humanitarian policies that will ensure that families don’t have to flee their homes to find safety and security.

This year, I introduced the Central America Reform And Enforcement Act in order to tackle the underlying issues driving migration to the southern border.

And I have more legislation in the works to set humanitarian standards for treatment of people arriving at our border.

We cannot stand by as the Trump administration tramples on what it means to be a New Mexican and an American, as the president and his administration vilify immigrants, send ripples of fear through immigrant communities, and treat innocent children and families like criminals. This is not who we are. I won’t stop fighting until we live up to our values as a state and nation built by immigrants.