Congresswoman Veronica Escobar Testimony Before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform

July 12, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on The Trump Administration’s Child Separation Policy: Substantiated Allegations of Mistreatment. Below are Congresswoman Escobar's remarks as delivered:

"Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, Members of the Committee:

Thank you for calling this hearing and for the privilege of testifying before you today.

I am proud to live on the U.S.-Mexico border, in El Paso, Texas, a community that has long been safe and secure, and our modern-day Ellis Island.

For seven months, my office has facilitated delegation visits to El Paso — 10 so far, and more to come — and I’m grateful for all those who have been able to (or will soon) join us, to bear witness to what is happening at the hands of the U.S. government.

There is no doubt that the increasing number of migrants at our southern border has presented a challenge. 

Unfortunately, in the last two years, our country has failed to live up to our founding values when addressing that challenge.

Before I focus on what our government is doing, let me tell you what my community is doing.

For years, but especially in this last year, El Paso has stepped up, helping feed, shelter, and offer hospitality to thousands of migrant families released by DHS week after week.

My community, with a fraction of the resources available to the federal government, has responded more strategically, thoughtfully, and compassionately than the federal government has.

We have always known this is not a matter of resources, but a matter of will.

El Paso has had to stand up shelters on a moment’s notice, transport hundreds of migrants daily, using only volunteers, and we’ve opened our wallets and our hearts to ensure every one of those vulnerable souls has a clean, safe place to stay once out of custody.

El Paso made the choice to employ compassion and good will.

And then we have the choice that our government has made.

Our government, at the hands of this administration, has exhibited an incompetence and cruelty that has created a human rights crisis in our own country.

Under the Trump Administration, border communities have borne witness to:

The deaths of at least six children in government custody since September

Family Separation, a practice called “illegal” by the United Nations, one which, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, inflicts deep life-long trauma

A policy so heinous, that the sound of a weeping child secretly recorded in a detention facility moved even the most hard-line anti-immigrant Americans. And, a policy that continues to this day.

We’ve seen severe overcrowding in Border Patrol processing centers that is so inhumane, that the DHS Office of the Inspector General described it as “dangerous” because it represents “an immediate risk” to agents and migrants alike.

We’ve seen conditions that dehumanize migrants, stripping them of their dignity, sending good agents into states of despondency, giving cover to bad agents who abuse their authority.

Long-term detention in ICE facilities, where in my district, a group of men requesting asylum who had been detained for nearly a year became so desperate, they went on a hunger strike.

They were force-fed and hydrated through tubes that were placed down their nose.

Speaking through their pain and their bloodied tubes, they told me they would rather die in America than be sent back to India.

Migrant Protection Protocols is this administration’s practice of sending legal asylum seekers into another country to await their hearing. 

A violation of due process that puts vulnerable populations in danger.

In one case, a woman who had warned CBP about the danger she faced in Ciudad Juarez, was sent back to Mexico, only to be kidnapped and brutally raped.

My district is ground zero for these atrocities.

And because my office inquires about these cases, in line with my oversight responsibilities, I have become a target as a result.

These polices have created the humanitarian crisis, and a moral crisis. 

I commend colleagues who have worked to address these issues: from Congresswoman Lofgren who has focused on root causes of migration to Congressman Raul Ruiz who has focused on medical standards for migrants in CBP custody.

I too have legislation. My bill, H.R. 2203, the Homeland Security Improvement Act, would increase accountability and transparency at DHS so that these conditions, these deaths, these abuses, can be relegated to a dark moment in history.

This is not about resources. 

And to prove that, just look at what El Paso has done without any. 

This is about having the will to treat people with dignity.

This is about cherishing and protecting our most precious resource, our future generation, our children.

We have the power to change this. 

Do we have the will?"

 

###