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Washington Rep. Kilmer: US border policies ‘entirely unacceptable’

A protest against conditions at the U.S. border. (Photo by Tom Cooper/Getty Images for MoveOn.org Civic Action)

As detention centers at the United States/Mexico border continue to spark debate, Democratic Congressman for Washington’s 6th District Derek Kilmer spoke to KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross on what he views as “entirely unacceptable” policies regarding immigrants and asylum seekers.

“I met with 22 women who had been separated from their children and I asked each one of them, ‘why did you come?'” Kilmer described. “I had one woman who said to me … ‘the village that I lived in, in Guatemala, had been completely overrun by the cartels and by gangs.’ She said ‘I waited at the border and I asked for asylum — I wasn’t trying to hide from anybody.’ She said her son was taken from her … they told her it would be two hours. And at that time, it was more than three weeks since she’d seen her child.”

For Kilmer, a fix isn’t simply about rubber-stamping a blank check for an aid package, nor is it about withholding aid to protest conditions at the border.

The solution for him — and many Democrats in Congress — lies somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

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“I don’t think anyone’s calling for aid without accountability,” Kilmer said. “But the notion that aid would be cut off entirely, I think is just a wrongheaded policy.”

Citing “bad efforts at broader immigration reform,” the Washington Congressman instead wants to address the most basic needs of those being detained at the border. That include setting “humane standards” for immigrants and asylum seekers.

To that effect, Kilmer and others in Congress have proposed a bill to address just that.

“We’ve got a bill that would make some reforms and set some basic expectations of humanitarian standards so that if someone comes to the southern border, they have basic access to things like clean water and medical care if they need it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to butt heads with lawmakers, after recent revelations came to light that the agency had quietly opened three new detention centers, violating directives from Congress.

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According to a report from Mother Jones, all three facilities are for-profit, something that Kilmer views as highly problematic.

“I think it’s wrong to have a profit motive involved in immigrant detention,” he noted, something he hopes a proposed bill setting standards for private detention facilities will help mitigate.

Listen to the Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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