Migrants are seen outside the U.S. Border Patrol McAllen Station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas, U.S., May 15, 2019. Reuters/Loren Elliott

Issuing checks to CBP, ICE and the private prison industry is not a solution.

 

Nancy Pelosi gave in to House Republicans and moderate Democrats to pass a $4.6 billion bill that would allot more money for Customs and Border Patrol  (CBP) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), in a half-measure solution to the crisis endangering the lives of migrants entering our country. 

Throwing more money at the very system that is broken is not a solution. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a stand and voted against the bill. 

 

“I do not believe that we should give more money to ICE. My district is 50 percent immigrant, and I have an obligation and a responsibility to protect them. I believe that really what we should ideally be doing is passing a pure, humanitarian bill to get money straight to those kids.”

Once the bill was sent to the Senate it was immediately struck down by Mitch McConnell in an attempt to pass his version of the bill — one that gives an enormous amount of funding to CBP and ICE and no protections for migrants or migrant children. 

The final Senate vote? Despite the complete Republican overhaul of the bill, more than half of Senate Democrats voted yes. Once it came back to the House, Nancy Pelosi led the charge and passed the legislation, with no negotiations. 

Not all Democrats all Democrats voted on the party line. Several members of the Progressive Caucus were furious, including AOC, who voted no to the second iteration of the bill. 

In an interview with Jake Tapper just before the final House vote, AOC said:

 

“We didn’t even bother to negotiate. We could have tried to get amendments in, to get humanitarian provisions put in, to get consequences for facilities that abuse kids in, and instead, what we’re doing is we’re immediately going to saying yes to what got passed out of the Senate. We’re a House of Representatives, and we’re a House majority, and we need to act like it.”

This is what a fearless leader looks like — someone who puts people over party. While Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were busy cowering to Republican lawmakers, AOC has made her stance very clear. Not only is she fighting for migrant children at the border, but she’s representing and protecting her constituents –half of whom are immigrants. The Senate and House Democrats who voted in favor of this final bill have just handed a blank check to the Trump administration to facilitate the for-profit detention of children and families.

Yes, that’s right,this bill is funding our country’s for-profit, privatized prison industry. From an article in GQ, the “Private-prison firm Geo Group has reportedly already made $500 million from migrant detention centers since Trump’s ‘zero tolerance policy’ began,” as reported by the Miami New Times. Southwest Key Programs, a nonprofit that set up a boys’ shelter in the husk of an old Walmart, reportedly netted $955 million in federal contracts between 2015 and 2018, according to The New York Times. A network of nonprofit groups, BCFS, reportedly received $179 million in the same time period. BCFS is the same contractor that held migrant kids in parked vans for 39 hours earlier this year, as ICE slowly did the paperwork to reunite the children with their families.”

Earlier this Monday, along with other Congress members, AOC visited several CBP facilities in El Paso, Texasand tweeted about her experiences. In front of Congress members, CBP officers “were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets.” According to her account, the women in these facilities were living under psychological warfare: being woken up at random hours, being called sexually derogatory names. When asked about the officers’ inhumane behavior, the best excuse they had was “officers are under stress and act out sometimes.”

 

 

It’s clear that, even if the perfect humanitarian aid package were approved by Congress, money and funding isn’t enough. The torment that these migrants are facing by officers cannot be explained away by a lack of funding. The current system we have at the border fundamentally does not recognize  migrants as human beings. 

We need to abolish ICE and abolish CBP taking take immigration out from under the Department of Homeland Security and replacing it with a humane, fair and expedient process that upholds the values we pretend to espouse.

This is where we need your help.

Our system is broken at so many levels, and the current lawmakers who claim to represent us are not doing anything to fix it. In fact, they have just made the problem worse. It’s our job as citizens to tell them enough is enough and show them the door. We need to elect a Brand New Congress for 2020.

 

Jenny is a software developer in the Bay Area by day, but she has always been passionate about writing and politics. Following the events of 2016, she’s felt compelled to take action and use her skills to get more involved. She began volunteering for Brand New Congress in June 2019.