February 12, 2019

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Members Introduce Legislation to Address Humanitarian Crisis at the Border

WASHINGTON— Today, Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA-36), CHC Chairman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Assistant Leader Ben Ray Lujan (NM-02), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), and 19 other Democratic Members of Congress announced the introduction of legislation directing U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to implement a set of minimum humanitarian standards for the treatment of individuals in CBP custody. The standards included in the legislation would address the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the border, where two children – Jakelin Caal and Felipe Gomez – died in December while in CBP custody.

The resolution comes after Congressman Ruiz – a humanitarian aid specialist and emergency medicine physician – joined Chairman Castro and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in visiting border patrol facilities in Lordsburg, New Mexico where Jakelin Caal was detained before her death. The legislation calls on CBP to conduct health assessments and emergency medical care, provide humane living accommodations, and ensure access to adequate water and nutrition.

“The border patrol facility I saw in Lordsburg was under-staffed, underequipped, and unprepared to care for the people in its custody – particularly children,” said Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., Chair of the CHC Health Task Force. “This legislation makes crystal clear that the United States has a responsibility to meet basic humanitarian standards of care for individuals in our custody. We must address the real crisis at our border – one that has already taken the lives of two young children – and recognize the essential human dignity of all people. I am confident that the steps identified in this resolution will help save children’s lives.”

“Yesterday, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Members introduced an important resolution to reaffirm that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) must provide basic standard humanitarian and medical care to all individuals in its custody,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus led two oversight trips to the border after the tragic deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, two young children in CBP custody. During these fact-finding congressional delegations, it was clear that the conditions in CBP custody are immoral, inhumane, and inconsistent with who we are—and who we want to be—as a country. I’m glad to be an original cosponsor of this resolution, which recognizes that the current CBP conditions are untenable and delineates what standards CBP’s medical care must meet in order meet American values. This resolution brings us one step closer to justice for Jakelin and Felipe, to ensuring those who legally seek asylum at our borders are met with proper and necessary medical care, and to bringing our nation back to moral conscience.”

“It is utterly unacceptable that two children died in our government’s custody because CBP’s facilities were unable to meet the needs of asylum seekers,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “Congressman Ruiz’s resolution outlines basic humanitarian standards to ensure that people seeking asylum in the U.S. are treated with dignity and respect, and get appropriate medical attention when they enter CBP custody. As chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, I am proud to push for the humane treatment of individuals in DHS custody, and to secure funding for the priorities outlined in Rep. Ruiz’s resolution.”

“This resolution is an important first step to finally setting some basic humanitarian standards for migrants held in CBP custody,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee on the House Judiciary Committee. “As Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee, I intend to fully examine the appropriateness of these facilities that even the current Commissioner of CBP called ‘incompatible’ with the increased migration of family units and unaccompanied children.”


In December of 2018, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus visited the border patrol facility where Jakelin Caal was held before her death. Lawmakers found that a lack of basic medical equipment, hygiene, privacy, and training for border patrol agents endangered the health and lives of agents and migrants alike.

Since the visit, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, have also recognized the need for additional resources to provide medical care and humane living conditions for individuals in CBP custody.

The resolution outlines the United States’ responsibility to care for all individuals, and specifically calls on CBP to:

  • provide standardized health assessments conducted by trained and certified health professionals,
  • ensure access to medical equipment and transport,
  • provide humane living conditions, and
  • meet the water, nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation needs of individuals in its custody.

The resolution is cosponsored by: Reps. Joaquin Castro, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Ben Ray Luján, Zoe Lofgren, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Salud O. Carbajal, Gilbert R. Cisneros, Juan Vargas, Sylvia R. Garcia, Nydia Velázquez, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Albio Sires, Grace F. Napolitano, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Michael F.Q. San Nicolas, Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Jerrold Nadler, Vicente Gonzalez, Darren Soto, Tony Cárdenas, Lou Correa, Norma Torres, and Ruben Gallego.

Click here for the full text of the resolution.

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), founded in December 1976, is organized as a Congressional Member organization, governed under the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. The CHC is dedicated to voicing and advancing, through the legislative process, issues affecting Hispanics in the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Territories.