Texas lawmakers call for change after deaths of migrant children

A Houston congresswoman retraced the border areas in El Paso where 8-year-old Felipe Alonso Gomez was apprehended and later transported to a U.S. Border Patrol facility in Alamogordo before dying in an Alamogordo hospital.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX 18th District) toured the Border Patrol holding facilities and a shelter for migrants alongside Congresswoman-Elect Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) Saturday afternoon.

“One of the things that we are most worried about here in El Paso right now is that the Border Patrol holding cells are inadequate,” said Escobar.

"Those holding cells were not meant for families. It's outdated infrastructure. Now, there's access to, at the El Paso Downtown facility, access to Coast Guard, health care personnel, but prior to this week, there was no health care access,” said Escobar.

The two congresswomen promised to advocate for humane housing facilities in El Paso that will be equipped with essential medical services once congress convenes in 2019.

Jackson Lee is also a senior member on the Committee of Homeland Security. Lee and Escobar told media Saturday afternoon they invited Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to meet with them during her visit to El Paso Friday, but Nielson declined.

“I’m disappointed [in] the Secretary. I’ve known every Homeland Secretary since 9/11. I’ve met with every single one of them. They are the most non-partisan because it’s about securing the homeland,” said Jackson Lee.

“You never turn down meeting with the members of the United States Congress no matter what party they’re in,” said Jackson Lee.

The congresswoman’s visit came on day eight of a partial government shutdown and a day after President Donald Trump threatened to shut down the southern border if Democrats do not approve funding to build a border wall.

However Jackson Lee and Escobar say Border Patrol agents on Saturday told them funding had to be spent on hiring more personnel, better technology along the border and infrastructure such as expansion of the holding cells.

“What we’re going to say is the truth, and that is: We have the dollars to give them what they [Border Patrol] need and want. [We need to] be able to convince the House and the Senate to join together and simply to [tell] the president: are you here to lead the nation or lead in party politics?” said Jackson Lee.

“We will get to work, but we will not do it by tweets, we’ll do it with information and passion,” said Jackson Lee.

President Trump tweeted Saturday morning saying any deaths of children or others at the border are the fault of Democrats, and assured Border Patrol needs the wall.

Congress is scheduled to convene Jan. 3 2019.

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