WASHINGTON - Congressional rooms were filled with emotion on Capitol Hill as lawmakers held several hearings this week to address the reportedly poor conditions at the southern border detention centers.
Yazmin Juárez lost her 19-month-old baby girl, Maria after being in border custody. She went to several hearings Wednesday and she wasn’t even the only one in the room in tears. Lawmakers who recently visited detention centers in Texas also spoke up, several choking on their words.
“We are creating a generation of children,” said Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, “that will never forget what we did to them.”
Tears stained Tlaib’s cheeks as she sympathized with Juárez, who is just one of several parents who have lost their children at a U.S. border facility.
“When ICE finally released us,” said Juárez. “I took my Maria to the doctor right away because she needed medical attention. She was very ill.”
Juárez went on to describe how she took Maria to three hospitals but said it ended with the third.
“She left lifeless,” said Juárez. “It breaks my heart. Its very hard to be here and tell this story, but I’m standing here in front of all of you telling it to cause a change and to make a difference in what happens in these detention centers.”
Juárez was joined by Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings.
“We refuse to be blinded by what we see,” said Cummings.
Several other lawmakers who visited Texas border facilities last week also joined the pressers, including California Congresswoman Nanette Barragan and New York’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.
Congressman Joaquin Castro led that trip and said there is a plan for short-term and long-term change.
“The system is broken,” said Castro. “Human rights are being abused and neglected.”
Short term, he said there needs to be more accountability and lawmakers need to raise the standards of care at the detention facilities.
Long term, he cited California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren’s bill to secure the Northern Triangle by addressing root problems and establishing a regional framework for refugee protection.
But President Trump has said he’s working to add money to the border facilities and that he doesn’t believe the reports of such poor conditions at the centers, maintaining they are run “beautifully.”
“As a mother,” said Juárez. “It is very difficult to express what has happened. And I thank you very much for listening to what I have to say.”
Friday, house Democrats are holding several more hearings on detention center improvements.