June 25, 2019


WASHINGTON - House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA) held the House Democratic leadership’s weekly press conference, where they were joined by Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) to outline House Democrats’ robust border supplemental, which provides critical humanitarian assistance for children living in unsafe conditions and strengthens our southern border.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: There is a humanitarian crisis at the border. There are children who are being held in unspeakable conditions. These are God's children. These are children who are being held without adequate food. These are children who are being held without adequate medicine. There is no soap. There are no diapers. Above all else, there is no human decency. It's something that we need to address, and address with the fierce urgency of now. The United States of America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world and the most powerful country in the history of the world. But that doesn't matter in terms of how we should be evaluated and in terms of our greatness. What matters is how we treat the least, the lost and the left behind. That includes God's children who are on that Southwest border, who are being treated by this great nation with indecency. The president should be ashamed of himself for using children as political pawns. That has to end this week. 

So today, the House of Representatives will pass a humanitarian aid package in excess of 4.5 billion dollars. We will do it with a strong Democratic vote. But we are urging our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to show some decency, show some strength. Stop acting like you're a part of a cult and act like a separate and coequal branch of government that has a responsibility to allocate funds in a humane fashion. That's what's in Article I.

VICE CHAIR CLARK: House Democrats have a busy week in front of us. We're voting on our second minibus appropriation bill that has several priorities for the American people, including over $137 billion for housing, transportation and other basic infrastructure needs. In the total absence of leadership from the White House, we are voting on the SAFE Act, which will put election security measures in place to protect our democracy. 

But the vote that's on everyone's mind is the vote we're going to take today on this supplemental emergency border funding. This is a crisis manufactured by this president and his administration. From the moment he descended on that escalator, he has been vilifying our immigrant communities and doing it in the most hideous and inhumane way possible, putting children in the center of it. […] Today's vote could not be more important. It couldn't be more of a chance for us to say to this administration, to our Republican colleagues, that we will all be judged by how we treat the children and that we cannot have the democracy in the country that we want if we don't rise to this occasion and help these children and families.

REP. ESCOBAR: I want to lay out for you all what is happening in my community and along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is absolutely no doubt that the numbers of families and children who are arriving at our front door, those numbers have increased. That is indisputable. All of us recognize that. […] Despite the fact that the numbers are up, this challenge - and it is a tremendous challenge - is a challenge of resources. It's a challenge of will. It's a challenge of policy. But it became a crisis under the iron grip of Donald Trump. And it became a crisis because the administration is intent on eroding asylum protections and incarcerating as many people, including children, incarcerating as many people as possible.

That is why members of the Democratic Party greet many bills having to do with immigration or appropriations of the Department of Homeland Security with suspicion and with caution. We should be cautious and we should be careful because we've seen this administration declare 'I need this emergency.' We've seen this administration manipulate agencies for nefarious purposes. But I have to tell you this particular supplemental, which is badly needed and urgently needed, has been crafted very carefully by thoughtful appropriators in the House and those appropriators have guaranteed that this money cannot be transferred so it cannot be used for mass deportations. It cannot be used for an ICE deportation force. They have safeguarded the funding that we are going to appropriate today so that it is used for the purposes that we intend for it to be used for. Beds, blankets, diapers, food, legal assistance. […] But my community is running out of funding. Our nonprofits are stretched beyond thin. Our nonprofits are running on empty. And this bill acknowledges the responsibility of the federal government has in helping local communities like mine and nonprofits like those in my community to ensure that they can continue to do the good work in partnering with the federal government. 

It is my hope that we send a resounding message today in the House and that the Senate does what it has said it wants to do, which is address the humanitarian needs of those who are most vulnerable, who are in our care today. The sooner that they take up the bill that we pass today and the sooner that the president signs that bill, the sooner that that funding will get where it needs to go. And make no mistake, Democrats stand ready with solutions on the immigration front. Today is an appropriations bill, but we have immigration policy solutions, ideas that come from the ground up that we are ready to pass with the help of everyone.

Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.