Bucks County, PA – Last month, the Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security issued a Management Alert: “DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley.” 

After reviewing the report, Debbie Wachspress concluded: “As an American and a mother, I am horrified.”

Highlights from the July 2, 2019 report include: 

  • DHS officials observed serious overcrowding and prolonged detention in Border Patrol facilities, requiring immediate attention.
  • Border Patrol held about 8,000 detainees in custody at the time of their visit, with 3,400 held longer than the 72 hours generally permitted under the CBP’s Transport, Escort, Detention and Search (TEDS) standards. Of those 3,400 detainees, Border Patrol held 1,500 for more than 10 days.
  • Children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities visited had no access to showers.
  • Children had limited access to a change of clothes; no laundry facilities. 
  • Two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals.

Despite DHS’ description of the situation on the southern border as “an acute and worsening crisis,” Congressman Fitzpatrick stated a visit was in order because the issue has been “politicized.” “The humanitarian crisis on America’s Southern border has been politicized to an unacceptable degree,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement. “Cutting through the noise requires visiting areas most affected to listen, learn, and find lasting bipartisan policy solutions.” 

This will be Fitzpatrick’s third visit to the southern border. Yet, just last month, Fitzpatrick voted against The Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act (H.R. 3239.) The bill establishes minimum standards of health and hygiene for people detained at the border. The vote occurred July 24, 2019, two weeks after the Office of Inspector General’s report was issued. The measure passed the House and awaits action in the Senate.

Wachspress expressed frustration and heartbreak over the worsening situation. “During the Trump administration, 24 migrants including seven children are known to have died in immigration custody since last year, after almost a decade in which no child reportedly died while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. With all due respect, our current representative has scheduled three visits over three years, which seem to have resulted in nothing more than photo ops. Congressman Fitzpatrick claims to seek bipartisan solutions, but his ‘no’ vote on H.R. 3239 demonstrated that party lines still matter more to him than the lives of children and people fleeing violence.” 

The Management Alert issued by the Office of Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security, “DHS Needs to Address Dangerous Overcrowding and Prolonged Detention of Children and Adults in the Rio Grande Valley,” can be downloaded here.

Wachspress announced her candidacy as a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District (PA-01) last month. Debbie is a working mom, local elected official, and experienced issues advocate. Deb is a proponent of just and humane immigration reform