Rep. Rashida Tlaib: ‘We Do Have a Crisis at Our Border - It Is One of Morality’

By Melanie Arter | July 12, 2019 | 6:01pm EDT
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

( - Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) asked lawmakers Friday not to refer to illegal immigrants as “illegal,” because the term is “derogatory” and “it dehumanizes people.”

“First, no one is illegal. That term is derogatory now, because it dehumanizes people. You can say any other forms of maybe coming in without regulations or so forth, but the use of illegal is disrespectful, and I ask my colleagues to try in so many ways to not dehumanize our immigrant neighbors who are trying to come in for safe haven,” Tlaib said in her testimony as a witness before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee titled, “The Trump Administration’s Child Separation Policy: Substantiated Allegations of Mistreatment.”


The freshman congresswoman conceded that there is a crisis at the border, but it’s one of morality.

“Mr. Speaker, we do have a crisis at our border. It is one of morality. As we have seen this current strategy unfold intentional and cruelly created by the Trump administration dead set on sending a hate-filled message that those seeking refuge are not welcome in America, and that the rule of law, human rights will not protect them here. Instead, Mr. Chairman, it’s a dangerous ideology that rules our nation right now,” she said.


Tlaib described her visit to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Clinton, Texas.

“The suffering in these illegal and immoral camps isn’t just limited to those children. Something I learned Mr. Chairman is that I was able to travel to Clint, Texas, and meet face-to-face mothers, fathers, grandparents who are suffering, ripped away from their families, not knowing if they’ll ever seen their children and loved ones again,” she said.

“I won’t forgot the father from Brazil who held onto his son with tears in his eyes as he told me in English he just wants his son to be an American boy. He said he was with his wife, his 8-year-old daughter and teenage boy in a tent-like space outside of Station 1. He said he has been there for 4 days,” the congresswoman said.

“I won’t forget Daisy, the grandmother who had a red ribbon on her wrist with the name of the medication she needs, who said she had in detention for 40 days, and she hadn’t seen her grandson who was mentally impaired since being separated from him when they arrived. I wonder everyday where she is now and whether or not she’s hungry,” Tlaib said.

“The fear in their eyes won’t be forgotten, Mr. Speaker, but the suffering in these illegal camps cannot be forgotten. Imagine traveling thousands of miles in grueling and dangerous conditions because you have no other option only to be separated from your family, from your children, thrown into overcrowded cages, denied a shower or toothbrush, and yes, drink water out of a toilet if you’re thirsty,” she said. “Now imagine doing that while pregnant.”

Tlaib told the story of a woman who found out she was pregnant with her first child when she got to the U.S.:

She smiled at me, and I instantly connected with her. She had a pink hoodie on, and I instantly just went towards her even though they told us not to talk to anybody, Mr. Chairman. I couldn’t not go to somebody who’s smiling at me, and I said, hello, and she said hello in English. And I love that she felt confident to speak to me in her broken English, and I said how long have you been here. She said 27 days, and she said I’m with a child, and she glowed.

“She was so happy because she had not known she was pregnant until she came here, but by showing up, Mr. Chairman, she is free now. The following day she is free now, and we are following the asylum process, and she is now at home. I spoke to her last week.. She’s so happy. She said you will be part of my family forever.


The congresswoman said she also spoke to CBP agents who were frustrated because they’d rather be on the border, instead of acting as a medical worker and social worker.

Mr. Chairman, it needs to noted I spoke to CBP agents even though they told us not to speak to them too. Remember that? And I said what do you think we need to do, because you guys are overwhelmed. They said, one of them ‘Stop sending money. It’s not working.’

“Another one said, ‘I wasn’t trained for this. I am not a social worker. I am not a medical care worker. He actually said I want to be at the border. That’s what I was trained to be at.’ The one other one, the last one, Mr. Chairman, ‘the separation policy isn’t working,’ he said. He knew about the separation policy he was enacting,”


Tlaib also claimed that CBP had the lowest morale among all law enforcement agencies, adding that between 2017 and 2018, there was a high of 100 agents committing suicide.

“That needs to be put in record. The dehumanization is not only with those families, but it’s with the agents that we had told to do this to these families,” she said.



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