Under a veto threat, the House on Friday approved a $733 billion defense policy bill which would block the President from shifting military money into a border wall or to pay for Homeland Security detention of illegal immigrants, but lawmakers rejected additional plans from Democrats to restrict the use of soldiers to help with immigration enforcement, and to prohibit the detention of immigrant children at military facilities.
"Kids are not prisoners of war. They do not belong on military bases," argued Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) in vain on Friday, as the House defeated her plan to prevent military base from being used as immigrant detention facilities.
The House also rejected a similar amendment from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and defeated another plan from the New York Democrat which would have restricted the use of soldiers along the southern border, if their assignment is to help enforce immigration law.
"There is no need for this," argued Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), who labeled the Ocasio-Cortez plan a "wrongheaded amendment," as more than 50 Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the measure.
The votes came as a House panel was hearing testimony Friday on the detention of illegal immigrant children in U.S. Border Patrol facilities, as the acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security detailed extreme overcrowding.
"Our recent unannounced inspections revealed a situation far more grievous than those previously encountered by our inspectors," said Jennifer Costello, the acting IG at DHS.
Costello described one facility in Texas - which had a maximum capacity of 125 people in detention - was actually holding 750 immigrants. And by the next morning, that had swelled to 900.
"These issues pose a serious and imminent threat to both DHS personnel and detainees, and require the Department's immediate attention and action," Costello said in testimony before the House Oversight Committee, echoing her report from early July which included photos of detainees crammed together in makeshift holding cells.
Top Democrats have vowed to pass additional legislation this month to hold the Homeland Security Department accountable on the standards of care for detained immigrants, especially children.
"The American people, in their decency, care about the children at the border," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
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