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Many of you asked for more detail about my trip to the border this week, so I wanted to take time to share my thoughts. (long but important thread)
I visited 3 facilities: the non-profit San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter, the Otay Mesa ICE Detention Center, and the Chula Vista Border Patrol (CBP) Station. They interact with immigrants at different stages and were very different from each other. (2/ )
What is happening in CA is different than in TX or AZ. These differences reflect geography, history, culture, resources, and other factors. My first observation to share: the “southern border” is not a monolithic static thing and our leaders need to see that. (3/ )
I personally spoke with immigration advocates, social workers, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and detainees, including families and children. I am taking what I saw and learned firsthand to my constituents in CA and my colleagues in DC (4/ )
I’m a big believer in accountability, and ICE employees and CBP officers seemed to support the oversight I was conducting. They spoke candidly with me, asked what else I would like to see, and allowed me to speak directly with detainees. (5/ )
The openness and respect from the people on the ground, particularly the career Border Patrol agents, seems inconsistent with the apparent move by DHS leadership to deny congressional staff access to facilities. (6/ )
Below are 6 takeaways I had on how Congress can and should act on to improve the situation at the border: (7/ )
First, better technology will help secure the border. When I asked a border patrol agent if improved technology would help him do his job, he gave a clear yes. And he offered examples and illustrations from his two decades of work. (8/ )
Second, Border Patrol needs medical personnel and additional medical training. Adults in CBP custody aren’t getting screened by medical professionals at all, and when they get sick, sometimes entire facilities have to be shut down and decontaminated. (9/ )
Kids in CBP get screened with 24 hours by agents with EMT training, but these agents are burning out working long shifts with constant medical work. EMT training is not aimed at detecting illness or assessing chronic conditions; it is trauma training. (10/ )
As an aside, Border Patrol agents find it challenging to keep kids in custody. They have compassion: one agent took time away from his family on Christmas to dress up as Santa for the kids at that facility. I met a 2-year old and 4-year old with their mom in a cell. (11/ )
Third, ICE detention is often very long. Some detainees are in prison for over a year, which can cause a backlog of people in Border Patrol custody—and those facilities are not designed to house people for more than a day or two at most. (12/ )
Part of the reason for long detentions is that ICE decisions on parole are made by one person at each facility—something that surprised me as this is a hugely impactful decision. (13/ )
Criteria for parole release are inconsistent across ICE detention centers, and judges are not regularly involved in this process.

Fourth, many ICE detentions seem to run counter to public safety and good sense. (14/ )
One detainee I spoke to was a single mom working a good job as an office manager in OC for 10 years. She was paying taxes and caring for her kids. Now that she’s detained, she has two kids who are homeless in OC. And taxpayers are paying to surround her with security. (15/ )
Fifth, the Otay Mesa Detention Center is run by a for-profit contractor. As a Congressmember, I have a duty to make sure tax dollars are being spent appropriately. Detention should be used to increase public safety, not line the pockets of corporations. (16/ )
Longer ICE detention and fuller facilities increase the profits of these corporations but may hurt the public. That makes good oversight all the more important. (17/ )
Finally, I learned that I have more to learn. I’ll continue to engage these organizations, try to see more facilities, ask more questions, and push for better solutions. Everyone I encountered at the border deserves nothing less than Congress’ full attention on this. (18/18)
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