LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez were among a minority of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members to vote for the Senate’s $4.6 billion emergency border aid bill.
Twenty-six of their CHC colleagues, including U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, voted Thursday against H.R. 3401, otherwise known as the Emergency Humanitarian Supplemental. The Senate version was adopted by the House on a vote of 305 to 102.
Congressman Joaquin Castro, chairman of the CHC, was not pleased. He wanted the House to stick with its version of the bill, which had more oversight of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, particularly as they affect care for migrant children. All CHC members voted for the House version earlier in the week.
“The passage of the Senate supplemental bill is a betrayal of our American values,” said Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio.
“This bill – opposed by the Hispanic Caucus and nearly 100 Democratic members of the House – will not stop the Trump Administration’s chaos and cruelty. It will not stop the abuse and detention of children. It will not stop the rampant human rights abuses in government custody. It will not stop the Trump Administration from tearing families apart and turning away asylum-seekers. As a result, migrants will continue to die.”
Castro added: “When the Congressional Hispanic Caucus members see suffering at the border, we see our children and our grandchildren. What happened today is unacceptable, and we will not forget this betrayal. Moving forward, we will continue fighting for immigrants to be treated with dignity and respect, work to end Trump’s deportation agenda, and fix our broken immigration system.”
Gonzalez, D-McAllen, and Cuellar, D-Laredo, had a different take to Castro and most of their CHC colleagues on the Senate bill.
“This was merely a stopgap bill that seeks to address the failed policies the Trump Administration has implemented at the border,” Gonzalez said. “It was a difficult decision, but at the end of the day, we need to provide relief to the communities and non-profits being forced to step in for the Administration’s failures and are paying for it at their own expense. The legislation will provide some critical relief and funding for our cities dealing with the influx of migrants, but we desperately need a comprehensive, bipartisan solution.”
Cuellar said that as a border representative his top priority is to provide the necessary funding and resources to help the children, families, and communities that are suffering at the southern border.
“Inaction is simply not an option. This bipartisan emergency supplemental includes more than $1 billion to shelter and feed migrants detained by the Border Patrol and almost $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children who are turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services,” Cuellar said.
“This bill also includes language that reaffirms standards of care for migrants in DHS and HHS custody. I have long advocated for enhanced oversight and have secured language through appropriations that improves detention facility conditions, standards, inspections, and healthcare services. It is our duty to help these migrants—this should not be a partisan issue.”
Cuellar said the Senate version also provides $30 million for direct reimbursements for local governments and non-governmental organizations in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California who have incurred costs for providing humanitarian relief to the migrants seeking asylum at the border. Cuellar described those costs as “massive.”
He said: “Even though I advocated for $60 million in the first House version of the Emergency Supplemental, I am pleased we are able to provide these deserved reimbursements that will ensure that the proper entities are compensated and incentivized to continue their critical humanitarian work. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House as well as Senate Leadership to increase the amount of reimbursement aid in the FY20 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill.”
Another aspect of the Senate version that Cuellar likes is funding for immigrant judges and their staff.
“This bill includes $45 million for 30 immigration judge teams to properly adjudicate the individuals and families entering our country. We can no longer detain individuals and families at the border or release them in hope that they will return for their court day. It is essential to our democracy that we promote the rule of law and enforce due process to every person in this country.”
Here are how CHC members in the House voted on the Senate version of H.R. 3401:
Joaquin Castro, Texas, CHC chairman — NO
Ruben Gallego, Arizona, CHC 1st Vice Chair – NO
Nanette Diaz Barragán, California, CHC 2nd Vice Chair – NO
Adriano de Jesús Espaillat Cabral, New York, CHC Whip – NO
Veronica Escobar, Texas, CHC freshman representative – NO
Pete Aguilar, California – NO
Salud Ortiz Carbajal, California – YES
Antonio Cárdenas, California – NO
Gil Cisneros, California – NO
J. Luis Correa, California – NO
Jim Costa, California – YES
Henry Cuellar, Texas – YES
Sylvia Garcia, Texas – NO
Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Illinois – NO
Jimmy Gomez, California – NO
Vicente Gonzalez, Texas – YES
Raúl Grijalva, Arizona – NO
Mike Levin, California – YES
Ben Ray Luján, New Mexico – NO
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida – NO
Grace Napolitano, California – NO
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, New York – NO
Xochitl Torres Small, New Mexico – YES
Lucille Roybal-Allard, California – NO
Raul Ruiz, California – YES
Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, Northern Mariana Islands, non-voting member
Michael San Nicolas, Guam, non-voting member
Linda T. Sánchez, California – NO
Jose Serrano, New York – YES
Albio Sires, New Jersey – YES
Darren Soto, Florida – NO
Norma Torres, California – NO
Lori Trahan, Massachusetts – NO
Juan Vargas, California – NO
Filemon Vela, Texas – NO
Nydia Velázquez, New York – NO
The Senate version of the bill was approved in the upper chamber by a resounding 84-8 margin.
The New York Times contrasted the House and Senate versions of H.R. 3401. Click here to read its analysis.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at a news conference in September 2018. They held the news conference to request that the Office of the Inspector General investigate the death of an 18-month Guatemalan girl who died after leaving an immigration family detention center in Texas earlier in 2018.