Despite labeling the current situation at the southern border a “humanitarian crisis,” 191 members of the House Republican caucus on Wednesday night voted against a $4.5 billion emergency aid package meant to provide proper care for migrants being held in horrific conditions inside U.S. detention facilities.
The bill eventually passed by a margin of 230-195.
House Republicans have for months demanded billions in emergency supplemental funding to address the massive border crisis, which is largely of President Donald Trump’s own making. But given a chance to address it, Republicans this week demurred.
Republicans argued that Trump would not sign the bill, as it was focused on humanitarian aid rather than a punitive approach.
Democrats were “pushing partisan bills to score political points and avoiding doing the hard work of actually making law,” said GOP Rep. Tom Cole (OK) on Wednesday night.
“[P]assing a partisan bill through this chamber won’t solve the problem,” he added.
As massive numbers of Central American migrants come to the United States seeking asylum — in part due to the Trump administration’s indifference to the conditions in their home countries — the president’s cruel approach to immigrant kids has been thrust again into the spotlight.
Recently, advocates and immigration lawyers have reported stark conditions at various immigration detention facilities, including claims of children being fed uncooked food, being denied soap and toothbrushes, and being forced to sleep on the floor under foil blankets with the lights on all day and night. Facilities were described as dirty and overcrowded, and many children have fallen ill repeatedly.
The Trump administration has been criticized for its treatment of migrants in the past, particularly after a number of children and adults died in government detention facilities. Its practice of separating children from their families at the border has been labeled inhumane by various humanitarian groups worldwide.
With little appropriated money left, Trump and House Republicans have demanded additional tax dollars to deal with the overcrowded detention facilities and other challenges.
In January, during Trump’s record-breaking partial government shutdown, the House GOP communications team blamed the Democratic majority for ignoring “the humanitarian crisis at the border.” In May, they released a set of talking points called “Ending the Humanitarian Crisis at the Border,” demanding immediate Congressional action.
And just this month, they complained that “virtually everyone in America recognizes that there’s a humanitarian crisis at the border, with one notable exception: Democrats in Congress.”
“Democrats have blocked GOP-led legislation that would fund humanitarian aid – not wall funding – for the southern border 15 times, and their majority refuses to address the situation despite pleas for congressional action,” they claimed.
On June 18, 2019, House Republicans held a press conference demanding that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) allow a vote on border humanitarian funding. On Tuesday, Pelosi and Democratic majority in the House brought a bill to the floor that would indeed provide billions in humanitarian aid to fund basic needs like food, water, and shelter. It also included standards for how refugee children are cared for and how contractors are held accountable for their care for migrants.
The bill passed the House, mostly along party lines. Four Democrats — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) — voted against the bill, uncomfortable with supporting any funding that might enable the detention of migrant children. Three Republicans — Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd of Texas, and Christopher Smith of New Jersey — voted for the emergency aid.
Trump immediately denounced the bill, accusing Democrats of not doing “anything at all about Border Security.”
“Too bad the Dems in Congress won’t do anything at all about Border Security,” he tweeted. “They want Open Borders, which means crime. But we are getting it done, including building the Wall! More people than ever before are coming because the USA Economy is so good, the best in history.”
The House bill’s prospects are uncertain with the Republican-controlled Senate, which is expected to vote on a separate $4.6 billion aid package later this week.