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Rosen blocks DHS nominees over filthy border facilities

Updated July 1, 2019 - 5:12 pm

WASHINGTON — Sen. Jacky Rosen has placed a hold on two White House nominees for the Department of Homeland Security, citing the administration’s failure to implement recommended measures to ensure the safety of immigrant children in custody in U.S. border facilities.

“Seeing babies and toddlers separated from their families and being detained in U.S. government facilities in horrendous conditions is simply unacceptable,” said Rosen, D-Nev., a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Rosen placed her hold on the administration nominees before leaving Washington for a nine-day July 4 recess. The Senate does not return until next Monday.

Last week the Senate and House passed a $4.6 billion supplemental spending bill sought by the administration to address the needs of immigrant children and unaccompanied minors at border detention facilities. Rosen voted for passage of that bill, which was approved by the Senate, 84-8.

But the conditions in the border facilities are so filthy and unsanitary that a federal judge in Los Angeles last week ordered that the detention centers be cleaned up and improved by July 12.

The ruling was one of several targeting Trump administration immigration policies.

Immigration advocates cite the administration’s “zero-tolerance” program, which has separated children from parents crossing into the United States without documents or to seek asylum as a reason for detention facility overcrowding.

In addition, there has been a surge of immigrants fleeing Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador seeking asylum in the United States.

At least seven immigrant children have died in detention facilities since Trump has been president due to illnesses, drawing criticism from health professionals and advocacy groups about current immigration policies.

Rosen, frustrated with the lack of immediate action by the administration, placed a hold on the nominations of Chad Wolf to be Homeland Security’s undersecretary for strategy and policy, and the president’s selection of Troy Edgar to be chief financial officer.

The senator said she would keep the hold on the nominees “until the inhumane and substandard conditions for children at DHS processing and detention facilities improve significantly.”

Rosen said she would lift the hold after a nongovernment third party certifies that the department has complied.

The Homeland Security inspector general conducted an announced visit to the border facilities on May 8 and 9 and found dangerous and severe overcrowding at a facility near El Paso and recommended immediate steps lessen the severity of the conditions.

The inspector general’s report prompted a bipartisan group of senators, including Rosen, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, to write DHS and ask that the inspector general’s recommendations be implemented.

In a hearing this year, Rosen grilled acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan about statements he made to her during a 2018 visit to an El Paso-area facility about the separation of children from parents that she maintained were later proved to be untrue.

Rosen, at the hearing, scolded McAleenan and advised him to be truthful going forward.

McAleenan told reporters last week that he expects a drop in the number of asylum seekers crossing the U.S. border by July, largely because of enforcement efforts by Mexico at its southern border.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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