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'Agencies Not Communicating' To Fix Immigration Problem, Says Miami Congresswoman

Jun 25, 2019
Originally published on June 25, 2019 9:20 am

Miami is just days away from hosting the first Democratic national presidential debate. Last week, President Donald Trump officially launched his campaign and called for Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents to detain thousands of undocumented immigrants across the country, including here in Miami.

Over the weekend, the president called off the raids and said in a tweet on Saturday that they would go forward in two weeks if Congressional Democrats didn’t submit to changes in asylum law.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Miami, recently called for an impeachment inquiry of President Trump. She is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and would play a key role in any impeachment proceedings.

Mucarsel-Powell joined Sundial to talk about the impeachment inquiry, the upcoming debates and the 2020 election. WLRN's Sundial and the Miami Herald will be hosting a town hall focused on the issue of immigration. Registration is closed but you can watch the Facebook live here.

MUCARSEL-POWELL: If ICE comes to your door, you don't have to open your door. They have to have a warrant. I have been talking to Republican colleagues here about different steps that we can take to provide work permits for people that are coming and working the farms in Florida. We depend on those workers to feed our communities. There are many things that we can do in a bipartisan basis. The problem is we have an administration in the executive branch that refuses to work not only with the House of Representatives but with the Senate, as well.

WLRN: You've been to the Homestead childhood detention facility. What did you see?

I have visited five times and every time I go I think it's going to get a little easier for me to visit it. The last visit that I did was a week ago and kids looked younger to me. I had a conversation with this young boy. He told me he was 13-years old. He had been at the Homestead Detention Facility for 44 days. He had come to the border with his older sister. His sister had a baby with her. They let the sister through to go see their mother in California. They took him away. I don't understand how we are keeping close to 3,000 kids in a facility that is a light security prison. That is what I'm going to call it because they have absolutely no freedom, they are living in a highly regimented schedule with a lot of security, they're sleeping in very crowded areas — 144 bunk beds with numbers next to the bunk beds, they are referred to by numbers not by their names, they don't have enough representation, they don't have enough case managers working on their cases and there is no reason why they're not reunited with their families.

There was another report of allegations of sexual abuse. This makes seven cases at this detention center. Is Congress looking into these allegations or which agency has the jurisdiction?

The problem here is that the agencies are not communicating with us or answering the questions that we are giving them. We found out about this last case by accident. There is a lot of cover up. There's lack of transparency that we're seeing in the Department of Health and Human Services. The last sexual allegation reported was sent by mistake to the Department of Children and Families in the state in Tallahassee and that's why it was made public. We have requested more information. We're waiting to obtain it, but just like I requested a hurricane evacuation plan back in May, I have yet to receive a formal hurricane evacuation plan. They are not providing our answers. There's a lot of arrogance by the administrators of these agencies and they are disregarding our congressional duty of oversight.

If a storm is coming this way, that's not a facility that would be safe. Who then has the final authority? And if we wanted to shut these down who could?

I think that our community can put a lot of pressure on the administrators who are managing the facility by making the appropriate calls. I have called for a shutdown of the facility. They have violated certain regulations. They are definitely profiting by keeping these children longer than what we have seen under the Flores agreement, which requires for kids not be kept in a high security facility for more than 20 days. I think that this is why elections matter. The administration, this president has appointed the Secretary Alex Azar to be overseeing these children and he is highly incompetent and I have asked for Azar to resign. And I know that this sounds radical. But we are seeing the highest levels of incompetence in these agencies that I have ever experienced living here in the United States.

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