Sen. Cantwell's October 23, 2019 email

From: Office of Senator Maria Cantwell <>
Date: Wed, Oct 23, 2019 at 12:42 PM
Subject: From the Office of Senator Cantwell
To: <>

Dear Dr. Gale,
Thank you for contacting me regarding conditions at detention facilities along our southern border. I share your views that these abhorrent conditions are unacceptable and contrary to our American values. 

As you know, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG), children and adults have been subjected to prolonged detention and overcrowding at Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. These OIG reports confirm that at some detention facilities, children lack access to showers or hot meals and are subject to conditions that represent a risk to those detained. These horrendous conditions are outrageous and must end.

In order to address the humanitarian crisis at the border, I supported H.R. 3401, the bipartisan Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, 2019, which was signed into law on July 1, 2019. The bill’s safeguards include provisions that prohibit funds from being transferred and used for other purposes by DHS such as building the wall or allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to purchase more detention beds. Nevertheless, Congress needs to provide strong oversight over abuses at the border. I believe that the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol must be held accountable.

I am a cosponsor of Senator Merkley’s legislation, S.2113, the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, to ultimately reform how children and families are treated at Border Patrol Stations. This bill would establish minimum health and safety standards for these detention facilities. The legislation requires that children have access to hygiene products like toothbrushes, diapers, and soap; have regular nutritious meals; and receive prompt medical assessments by trained medical providers. The bill would also stop the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement from making new contracts with for-profit contractors and instead, require the agency to make contracts with non-profit entities that are state-licensed. The legislation was introduced on July 15, 2019, and is awaiting consideration in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I also believe family separations must end. Therefore, I am a cosponsor of S. 292, the Keep Families Together Act, legislation that would prevent U.S. authorities from separating children from their parents unless a court or state welfare official found it would be in a child’s best interest because they were abused or trafficked.

Lastly, it must be stated that the United States is obligated under U.S. and international law to protect asylum seekers and fairly process the validity of their claims. Our nation, as well as our state, has a long and proud history of taking a leading role protecting innocent civilians, who are unable or unwilling to return to their home country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. I have opposed the Trump administration’s harmful attempts to limit people’s ability to seek asylum in the United States. I have also advocated for increasing funding to federal programs that support refugee resettlement in the United States and humanitarian support for refugees abroad.
Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator