Before heading home for the August work period, the House voted on two immigration bills to address humanitarian conditions at U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facilities along our southern border and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for refugees from Venezuela. I know that immigration is an important issue and I want to explain the bills and why I voted against them.
H.R. 3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act would establish basic humanitarian standards of care for individuals in CBP custody. Some of these standards include: access to food and water, initial in-person medical screenings, access to medical treatment and emergency care. Most of these are already protocol in CBP facilities, and I of course agree that they should be available.
However, this one-size-fits-all approach would impose burdensome, likely unattainable requirements on hundreds of diverse CBP sites across the country. On top of that, some of the more extensive medical care and service requirements would exceed those offered to our veterans at numerous Veterans Affairs hospitals, and other health facilities operated by the government. This legislation fails to address the underlying issue of understaffed and underequipped CBP facilities and attempts to turn these CBP sites into permanent medical facilities.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan people have suffered under the oppression of the Maduro regime. Venezuela’s economy has deteriorated at alarming rates, causing a scarcity of basic foods and medicine in the country. This is a humanitarian crisis. In response, the United States has spent $95 million on humanitarian funds to assist Venezuela. H.R. 549, the Venezuelan TPS Act would grant temporary protected status (TPS) and provide relief from immigration enforcement to Venezuelans in the United States. TPS was established almost 30 years ago to provide temporary relief to nationals of countries affected by armed conflict or environmental disasters.
Despite the fact that Congress intended TPS to be temporary, over time it has become a permanent, automatically renewed status with some countries being designated for TPS for decades. According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are close to 270,000 Venezuelan nationals in the U.S., 123,000 of those are here illegally. Under this bill, all 270,000 would be eligible for TPS. This would double the number of TPS recipients in the U.S. While I sympathize with the people of Venezuela, this legislation would add to our already strained immigration system and TPS is not a viable solution until we make serious reforms.
I will continue to work on this immigration crisis and support legislation that will keep families together, strengthen our borders, and fix our broken immigration system.
Member of Congress