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Immigration and Identity Politics — Analysis of The Squad’s House Testimony

On Friday morning, the House Oversight and Reforms Committee heard from freshwomen representatives Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Osacio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. They gave an emotional testimony on their experience with visiting numerous detention centers in the south along with 14 other Congress members.

They reported that the conditions were inhumane, with no functioning water from the sinks that women were drinking out of toilets, with intense overcrowding in cells, and other human rights violations such as not receiving food, being separated from family members with medical needs, and not having access to a shower for days.

Osacio-Cortez further emphasized that this was all happening under the American flag that was hung in all these detention centers and adamantly refused to believe that America should be represented like this. More remarks are made in the video below. 

The hearing became very combative quickly. Representative Debbie Lesko negated that the women in the center drank toilet water which spurred Osacio-Cortez to state that she had 17 names of women who claim they drunk toilet water and explained the women showed her their cells that did not have access to water. Former ICE Chief Thomas Homan was also brought into the hearing and faced questioning by other Democratic representatives that got heated by representatives shaming him on the conditions in these centers.  A recent report was used in the hearing that showed the details of numerous children separated from their parents and the increase of immigrants in America to further emphasize the issue of people arriving and the maltreatment. occurring in Homan’s leadership

Overall, the House hearing did not provide any clear solution to the immigration issue. However, it did highlight the politics of the immigration issue that has been a major point of discussion. It further ostracized Democrats and Republicans, going as far as creating a barrier between Democrats and the federal government, such as ICE.

With the discussion of ICE agents performing raids this week and the conditions immigrants are placed in, Democrats are looking for someone to blame. They want to vilify ICE agents, with Representative Ayanna Pressley going as far as calling ICE agents of color “cogs” in a machine of oppression against people that “look like them”. Again, tensions are high between Democrats and Republicans, and the recent committee has shown this. As Democrats call out Republicans such as President Donald Trump for their unsanitary and inhumane housing of illegal immigrants, Republicans are claiming that their politics are more to appease the masses than to prove anything substantial.  Vice President Pence criticized the harsh rhetoric used by Democrats, stating that he has visited a border patrol center and talked to immigrants who claim that they have been treated well and stated that he is very aware of the overcrowding. Rep. Chip Roy, a Republican, also acknowledged the overcrowding but blames it on lenient immigration laws that the President has not enforced and that the Democrats use to further entice immigrants to come in via Twitter. 

There is a bill by Representative Veronica Escobar that would tighten oversight on the Homeland Security Department. The Department has released an alarming report on overcrowding in these detention centers. Another bill by Representative Paul Ruiz lists new care standards for immigrants, and a possible Senate legislation on health and care standards in these centers is in the works.  These all provide opportunities to changing the awful situations that are obviously taking place in these detention centers and hopefully the treatment of immigrants, illegal or not, in the future. Yet, the unruly hearing and aired woes turned the discussion at hand into an ugly, mud-slinging party loyalty defense. With such polarized views, especially brought up by freshwomen Congresswomen who want to change much in the government, there needs to be some kind of balance.

The Democratic freshwomen came into their positions to talk about the issues that are most bothering them and their constituents and to make big changes. However, everyone else is used to the way things are and know that it takes time for such things to happen. This hearing showed the difference between the parties and the seniority of the Congress members. This kind of conflict between parties and party members shows that there needs to be some kind of happy medium for immigration to be even resolved. These bills won’t be passed due to party rivalry and a compromise or half-solution will take too long to be drawn up; these centers will still be packed with people who will have their rights violated. For change to really happen, we need to listen and be open. Let’s hope for that.

Photo Credit: Moontietunes/Pixabay

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Mia Boccher
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