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Five children have died in U.S. immigration custody since last December. Amid outrage among some members of the public regarding conditions in migrant detention centers, Massachusetts Congresswoman Lori Trahan has drafted new legislation she said will hold federal immigration officials answerable.
On Tuesday, Trahan filed a bill called the Accountability for Migrant Deaths Act, which would require immigration officials to notify Congress within 24 hours of a migrant dying in U.S. custody. Under the proposal, a mandatory public hearing would then occur after notice is given.
"The notification that triggers the public hearing is what gives this legislation teeth and frankly, the American people deserve nothing less than to understand why did someone just die in our custody," Trahan said.
The congresswoman recently visited a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol processing facility in Texas and said her experience prompted her to take action. She recalled seeing a young boy through the glass of a small holding room. Trahan said the boy knocked on the glass and asked for his Papa.
"While we're holding folks accountable to figure out why this happened on our watch, we're also putting in procedures and troubleshooting in real time how we prevent that in the future," Trahan said.
The legislation would mandate that public hearings be held within a week of any death notification. In the hearing, members of Congress would be able to request and receive testimony from agency officials.
The bill would also limit the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services from exerting executive privilege in an attempt to avoid public testimony.
The congresswoman called the legislation "simple by design," which she hopes will result in bipartisan support.
This article was originally published on July 10, 2019.
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