News Releases

IMMIGRATION/REFUGEES: Murray Presses Obama Administration on Detention, Treatment of Unaccompanied Children and Families Near the Southwestern Border

Jul 10 2014

JBLM facilities may house some unaccompanied minors detained near the SW border according to news reports

Murray: “I’m particularly concerned about the condition and care of the young women and girls we’re detaining along our border.”

Murray: “Will the Administration ensure that each and every one of these children detained by the United States can pursue asylum, have legal representation from a qualified attorney, and receive a fair hearing?”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray pressed top Obama Administration officials on the treatment of unaccompanied children and refugees detained near the Southwest border after fleeing widespread violence in their home countries.  The Senator’s remarks and questions took place at a special hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee held in response to the President’s $3.7 billion emergency funding request to address the situation along the Southwestern border.

In fiscal year 2013, Customs and Border Protection apprehended approximately 24,000 unaccompanied children at the border. By the end of June of this fiscal year, that number has already doubled to more than 57,000. The Department of Homeland Security estimates this number could reach up to 90,000 by the end of fiscal year 2014.

Excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“These are not people coming here to take American jobs. These are not people coming here for a free ride. These are children, many of them only 7 or 8 years old, fleeing terrible violence in their home countries. They’re sent by desperate mothers and fathers who have had to look them in the eyes and literally tell them to run for their lives. As a mother, and a grandmother, I just can’t imagine what that would feel like. So let’s be clear about what this is.  This is a refugee crisis that we’re seeing along our Southern border.”

“Now, as someone who has a daughter and a grand-daughter, I’m particularly concerned about the condition and care of the young women and girls we’re detaining along our border… Many have endured physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, and human trafficking. And many others have fled in hopes of avoiding a similar fate…we need to be prepared to protect these children and young people, particularly the young women and girls, from having to once again face the very same violence, abuse, and human trafficking they’re running from in their home countries.”

“Why is the Administration pursuing costly detention of families instead of relying on more cost-efficient and effective alternatives to detention? And, will the Administration ensure that each and every one of these children detained by the United States can pursue asylum, have legal representation from a qualified attorney, and receive a fair hearing?”

Senator Murray’s remarks and questions for the panel, as prepared:

“First of all, thank you, Senator Mikulski, for holding this hearing today.

“Because I think all of us in this room, Republicans and Democrats, are at least in agreement that what we’re seeing along our nation’s Southwest border is simply unacceptable.

“As some of my colleagues have already mentioned, the numbers of young people and children crossing our border, often by themselves, and almost always with nothing beyond the clothes on their backs, is just staggering.

“And, as everyone here knows, we’re not talking about a few, individual cases.   We’re talking about tens of thousands of young, often unaccompanied minors entering the United States…

“And I want to be very clear about the circumstances these children are facing, the circumstances that are causing them to cross a continent by foot and seek safety in the United States.

“These are not people coming here to take American jobs.

“These are not people coming here for a free ride.

“These are children, many of them only 7 or 8 years old, fleeing terrible violence in their home countries.

“They’re sent by desperate mothers and fathers who have had to look them in the eyes and literally tell them to run for their lives.

“As a mother, and a grandmother, I just can’t imagine what that would feel like.

“So let’s be clear about what this is.  This is a refugee crisis that we’re seeing along our Southern border.

“You know, as Americans, we all think of refugee crises as situations that happen far, far away from here.

“But we all need to open our eyes, because this is happening in our country, and it’s happening right now.

“And this doesn’t only affect Americans who live along the Southern border. This affects every single American community.

“Over the last few weeks, in my home state of Washington, we’ve seen headlines and press reports indicating that some of these children may be sent to facilities at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just a few miles south of downtown Seattle.

“So all of us, regardless of which state we’re from, need to take this situation very, very seriously.

“Now, as someone who has a daughter and a grand-daughter, I’m particularly concerned about the condition and care of the young women and girls we’re detaining along our border.

“So many of them have already faced unbelievable hardship in their home countries.

“Many have endured physical abuse, sexual abuse, violence, and human trafficking.

“And many others have fled in hopes of avoiding a similar fate.

“So while we’re discussing the resources that the Administration needs to fight organized crime on our border, which is important, I’m also very focused on giving the Administration the resources they need to protect these children and treat them humanely while they’re detained.

“For starters, that means basic things like food, water, and diapers.

“But it also means we need to be prepared to protect these children and young people, particularly the young women and girls, from having to once again face the very same violence, abuse, and human trafficking they’re running from in their home countries.

“Some children will be sent back to their home countries. But, we simply cannot ignore the legitimate cries for help from refugee children.

“We often ask our friends around the world to support refugees fleeing violence. Well, now it is our turn.

“While we’re focused on fighting organized crime on our border and reducing illegal immigration, we simply cannot lose sight of our responsibility to provide these children with the most basic legal information and guidance, and we have to ensure that if they have valid claims for asylum, someone is there to help them pursue it.

“More than one year ago now, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate voted together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“We’d seen too many tragedies at our borders and in our own communities, so we came together to make wholesale, dramatic reforms.

“Unfortunately, while that bill sits, ignored by the House of Representatives, we continue to witness situations like the one we’re seeing at the border today.

“So while the supplemental appropriations we’re considering today are critical, the only way we can fix these problems for the long term is through comprehensive reform legislation.  

“So my questions, for the panel:

“Why is the Administration pursuing costly detention of families instead of relying on more cost-efficient and effective alternatives to detention?

“And, will the Administration ensure that each and every one of these children detained by the United States can pursue asylum, have legal representation from a qualified attorney, and receive a fair hearing?”