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Turlock congressman sees ‘small progress’ in visit to border detention facility

Representative Josh Harder, D-Turlock took a tour on Aug. 13 to a series of Customs and Border Patrol facilities in McAllen, Texas, including the largest detention center in the country.
Representative Josh Harder, D-Turlock took a tour on Aug. 13 to a series of Customs and Border Patrol facilities in McAllen, Texas, including the largest detention center in the country. Special to Vida en el Valle

Congressman Josh Harder, D-Turlock, visited a border detention facility in McAllen, Texas in what his office called a bipartisan fact-finding mission to the southern border to get a first-hand look at the conditions in which asylum-seekers and other immigrants are being held.

The rookie representative joined Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick on an Aug. 13 tour of a series of Customs and Border Patrol facilitiess, including the largest detention center in the country.

Harder saw some improvements in the right direction but problems with overcrowding and ongoing humanitarian concerns still remain.

“It’s heart-wrenching to see. A lot of kids are still in cages, and it’s still overcrowded and inhumane,” said Harder of the visit. “It’s a humanitarian crisis of our own making and we can never ever let it happen again.”

During the trip, Harder also met with local immigrant rights activists and advocates to get their perspective on the issue, according to Harder’s office.

The congressmembers visited a port of entry to better understand the increased flow of asylum-seekers and their effect on the facility’s operations as well as the largest processing center in the country and a makeshift holding center which was built in response to the influx of immigrants seeking asylum over the early part of this year.

The delegation also met with a local immigrant rights attorney who represents immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.

“Public pressure has forced Customs and Border Patrol to take some baby steps in the right direction – based on what I saw, kids have toothbrushes, they’re not being kept in detention for weeks at a time, and family separations are down,” added Harder. “But small progress is nowhere near enough – even one child separated from her mother and kept in a cage is one too many.”

The one-day trip included visits to the Hidalgo port of entry, the McAllen Border Patrol station, the centralized processing center known as Ursula, and a holding facility in the city of Donna.

According to his office, Harder was able to speak with several moms and their kids from Ecuador and Honduras.

“This isn’t who we are as a country. This is a systematic failure that Washington is responsible for and it’s made worse by the fact that CBP is just not equipped to take care of kids,” Harder said. “It’s time for a real bipartisan solution that fixes our broken immigration system and guarantees humane conditions for families at the border. We have to keep public and congressional pressure up to right this wrong.”

According to his office, Harder would like to see a larger role for social service agencies to address the humanitarian crisis.

Harder voted for $4.5 billion in emergency funding, which was signed into law on July 1 to improve conditions at border detention facilities.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud

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