The immigration crisis at the southern border is once again taking center stage on Capitol Hill. On July 25 another migrant was reported dead while in federal custody, as officials work to improve conditions at detention centers.
The new round of hearings focused on family separation and detention of undocumented migrants, with enforcement agencies defending their work.
“Separation is an incredibly rare occurrence and only takes place in compliance with the President’s June 20, 2018 Executive Order,” said Biran S. Hastings from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Officials highlighted improvement, stating that children are now spending about 50 days less in Health and Human Services custody than last year despite an all time high influx of unaccompanied minors.
“As of July 15, DHS has referred more than 61,000 unaccompanied alien children to us, the highest number in the program’s history,” said Jonathan H. Hayes, Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The scrutiny is not just on the detention of children, but on conditions in detention centers, with reports of overcrowding, unsafe conditions and even allegations of sexual assault.
“Our recent unannounced inspections revealed a situation far more grievous than any our inspectors previously have encountered,” said Diana R. shaw, Assistant Inspector General for Special Reviews and Evaluations.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle frustrated.
“Holding hearings until a problem is solved is about like saying ‘I’m gonna scream at that wall until it changes color,’” said Republican Georgia Representative Doug Collins.
“For 52 days that’s the comfort they had no cots, no sleeping bags, cracked lips from exposure. That’s the way we’re handling it?,” asked Democratic Pennsylvania Representative Madeleine Dean.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in California is temporarily blocking a new rule that would bar migrants from claiming asylum if they traveled through Mexico to get to the U.S.