(CNSNews.com) - Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) went to the Senate floor on Wednesday to describe a visit he made last month to a Border Patrol facility near El Paso, Texas, and to express his dismay with the fact that a Honduran woman who had paid alien smugglers to bring her to the United States—while she was nearing the end of her pregnancy--had been stopped at the U.S. border by the U.S. government.
Durbin said the woman was “obviously close to delivering” and that her unborn child—whom he called an “infant”—had been threatened by Honduran drug gangs.
“Another young Honduran woman, pregnant and obviously close to delivering, stood patiently in line,” said Durbin.
“The young father-to-be hovered behind her, holding two disposable diapers,” he said.
“The previous night, they had come to our border looking for protection,” Durbin said.
“I asked them why, in her condition, would she make such a journey. And she told me she was threatened with not only her death but the death of her infant if her husband refused to work with the drug gangs in Honduras,” said Durbin.
“As a result, she told me her family sold absolutely everything they had to pay for the transporters--also known as smugglers or coyotes--to transport them across Mexico to our border,” he said.
Here is the transcript of the part of Durbin’s speech where he describes the pregnant woman from Honduras:
“Mr. President, last month, on Friday, April 12, I visited the port of entry in El Paso, TX, that is known as Paso Del Norte and a nearby Border Patrol station known as Station No. 1. What I saw was heartbreaking.
“The migrants who presented themselves at our border are being detained in cramped cells known as hieleras, Spanish for the word ‘iceboxes.’ These are metal-sided detention rooms, which the detainees complain are kept painfully cold. The sign above one of these detention room doors reads ‘Capacity: 35.’ I took a few minutes and counted the number of men in that cell. Capacity may have been 35, but there were over 150 men standing in that cell and maybe one toilet.
“The large, heavy glass window on the cell gave a clear view of the detainees. But for a few benches along the walls, which accommodate a very small number, there is literally no room to sit or lie down. Meals are provided to the standing migrants to eat in the cell. Many will wait for up to 3 weeks in this so-called icebox to be transferred to an ICE facility.
“Next to it was a woman's cell that has a sign reading ‘Capacity: 16.’ I paused and counted about 75 women in a cell designed for 16, including nursing mothers with their babies. As our eyes would lock, some of the women would mouth the word ‘help.’
“Just outside this building, hundreds of men and women and children who were brought in from the border hours before stood in long lines.
“These migrants are at the end of a long and dangerous journey, and this preliminary process led them to a table where four officials were writing down information. The approach was clearly designed to be slow, and it was clearly understaffed.
“I stood in line with a translator speaking to those who were waiting. One was a young mother holding a 1-year-old child. She told me of taking 4 weeks--1 month--to escape Honduras and to cross Mexico to escape the narco gangsters in her country.
“Another young Honduran woman, pregnant and obviously close to delivering, stood patiently in line. The young father-to-be hovered behind her, holding two disposable diapers. The previous night, they had come to our border looking for protection. I asked them why, in her condition, she would make such a journey. She told me she was threatened with not only her death but the death of her infant if her husband refused to work with the drug gangs in Honduras. As a result, she told me her family sold absolutely everything they had to pay for the transporters--also known as smugglers or coyotes--to transport them across Mexico to our border.
“Included in the omnibus appropriations bill that we wrote this year was more than $400 million for humanitarian assistance for the border. We could do so much more even in the midst of our political debate--so much more to treat these desperate people in a humane way.
“I am sorry to report that I do not believe the detention facilities that we have for detained migrants could possibly pass any inspection by the International Red Cross. We are America. We are better than this.
“It is clear the Trump administration's border security policies have failed. They have destabilized the region, encouraged more migration, and are driving more families into the arms of human traffickers. The Trump administration has shut down legal avenues for vulnerable families and children fleeing persecution.
“There was a program called the Central American Minors Program under President Obama. It was straightforward. Children and certain relatives seeking protection who lived in a country such as Honduras could present themselves in-country at the consulate, fill out the forms, and determine whether they were eligible for refugee status or humanitarian parole. These children and family members didn't have to make a dangerous journey, liquidate everything they owned on Earth, and risk their lives. President Trump closed down that program. Why? Wouldn't you want them to learn their status, if they could, in their country of origin?”