The House passed a $4.5 billion bill Tuesday to fund the government’s enforcement and detention activities at the border. The traditional media is extremely insistent on calling this “humanitarian aid” at the border, but it’s really funding for the government agencies that are separating families and detaining children so that they have funding to continue executing that policy without bigger problems than they already have. The only humanitarian thing here is that House Democrats have attached some requirements for improved treatment of the children—and Republicans fiercely oppose those requirements, which have already drawn a veto threat from Donald Trump.
The Democratic bill, which passed by a 230 to 195 margin, blocks the Department of Health and Human Services from using shelter contractors that don’t provide basic things such as food and toothbrushes and routine medical care, as well as requiring Customs and Border Protection to establish health and safety standards for detainees. Children would be limited to no more than 90 days at HHS “influx” shelters. These are significant improvements on the Trump administration’s practices, but by no means the total dismantling and rebuilding this cruel system requires.
Republicans, including of course Trump, are having none of it. Adding basic requirements for actual humane treatment of people in this “humanitarian aid bill” is not what they had in mind. While Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who voted for the bill reluctantly, says, “I don’t even know how to describe the idea that we have to tell them: You’ve got to provide food and water to these kids,” Republicans are outraged at being told that. “This bill tacked further to the left, to satisfy the liberals in the Democratic caucus, who are unwilling to do anything that meets President Trump’s request,” complained Republican Rep. Tom Cole, as if “unwilling to do anything that meets the request of the guy separating families and abusing the children” is something to be ashamed of.
There is a crisis in CBP and HHS detention facilities, but it’s a crisis created in large part by the Trump administration’s policy of holding migrants for long periods of time. Simply continuing to fund the detention centers without putting some limits, however minimal, on those policies is not a humanitarian move.